February 2017


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The Founding Years

Ferdinand Loewe at Vienna Musikverein

Originally called the Wiener Concertverein, the Wiener Symphoniker was founded in 1900 . The initial objectives were to produce affordable orchestral concerts for general audiences, on the one hand, and to meet the need for premieres and first performances of contemporary works, on the other. After some delays, the new orchestra made its official debut in the Great Hall of Vienna Musikverein on 30 October 1900 under the baton of Ferdinand Löwe. From the earliest decades of its artistic life, the Wiener Symphoniker premiered a series of works that are now among the undisputed staples of the orchestral repertoire, including Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, Arnold Schönberg’s Gurrelieder, Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand and Franz Schmidt’s Book With Seven Seals.

Achte Mahler KonzerthausIn the early 1930s, the orchestra was given the name by which it is still known today, the Wiener Symphoniker. The orchestra first achieved international recognition during major tours of England and Italy under the leadership of Chief Conductor Oswald Kabasta. Frequent name changes are not the only means by which to gauge the eventful history of this ensemble. During the First World War, the orchestra barely managed to avoid disbanding by merging with another orchestra that was founded in 1913, the Wiener Tonkünstlerorchester. The orchestra actually had to shut down in 1944, if only for eight months.

At the close of the Second World War, the orchestra was re-established under extremely difficult conditions. The 16 September 1945 Gala Concert for the Revitalisation of the Orchestra provided the framework for a resounding performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony. Chief Conductors Hans Swarowsky and Josef Krips were largely responsible for the post-1945 restructuring.

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