Last week, an open-air concert in the newly designed Arkadenhof of the Vienna City Hall with many celebrities from politics, culture, society and business marked the end of a truly extraordinary season. Almost half of the more than 160 planned concerts could take place until global events called for an unprecedented stop in mid-March 2020. After the weeks and months of silence, we could finally celebrate the reopening of concert life in June in order to bring back to the music-hungry Viennese audience the so painfully missed experience of live music in over 20 new concerts.
The recent experiences have made us all the more grateful for the diverse and ambitious projects that we were able to realize in 2019-20. After a previous focus on Bach and Berlioz, two further major B’s of music history came to the fore in this 119th season of the Wiener Symphoniker: Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms. Under the direction of Philippe Jordan, who presented his sixth and last season as Music Director of the Wiener Symphoniker in 2019-20, the orchestra set out to remeasure the four symphonies by Johannes Brahms. The Brahms cycle marks not just the beginning, but to a certain extent also the end of this special season: the recordings made in autumn 2019 at acclaimed concerts at the Vienna Musikverein will soon be available on CD.
Another highlight in the examination of the work of the great romantic composer followed in October when our Artist in Residence 2019–20, the exceptional American pianist Yefim Bronfman, took the podium for Brahms' two piano concertos. Along with Philippe Jordan, our First Guest Conductor Lahav Shani, another key artistic companion of the orchestra, took the conductor's desk on this occasion. In the 2019–20 season, Shani conducted the orchestra twelve times with four different programs. He was also on the podium for two of the six concerts held for schoolchildren. The school concerts are part of the diverse educational projects of the Wiener Symphoniker, which reached almost 6000 young people in the past season.
The traditional concerts at the turn of the year with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ushered in the Beethoven year 2020, for which the Wiener Symphoniker under Philippe Jordan have been preparing meticulously since 2017. The result of their “Road to Beethoven” was, among other things, an award-winning total recording of the nine symphonies published at the end of 2019, the celebrated reconstruction of Beethoven's “Musical Academy” from 1808, and two tours that led the orchestra to Germany, Hungary, Croatia and France in January 2020. Together with Rudolf Buchbinder, the Wiener Symphoniker presented Beethoven’s five piano concerts as well as his symphonies under the direction of Philippe Jordan.
The abrupt provisional end of the season in mid-March fell in the middle of the final rehearsals of another highlight of the Beethoven year: "Fidelio" in the Theater an der Wien under the direction of Manfred Honeck and staged by Hollywood star Christoph Waltz could only be recorded without audience. When the ban on events was lifted on May 15th by June 1st, preparations for a new concert program for the summer 2020 were in full swing. And so the Wiener Symphoniker played on more than 20 occasions in June and July, in order to finally provide the music-hungry Viennese audience with the irreplaceable experience of live concerts.
Before we start full of hope and new ideas into our 120th season along with the new Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada in autumn 2020, the last concerts of this extraordinary season 2019-20 will follow at the end of August. In a series of performances at the Festspielhaus Bregenz, the Wiener Konzerthaus and at the Grafenegg Festival, Philippe Jordan and the Wiener Symphoniker will present the program with which they say goodbye to each other after six formative and happy years together: “Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks”, “Don Juan” and the “Rosenkavalier Suite” by Richard Strauss. In Grafenegg, the Wiener Symphoniker will also present two other selected concert programs on the last weekend in August. The three-day orchestra residence - the first concerts of the Wiener Symphoniker in Grafenegg at all - starts on August 28 with works by Gershwin and Dvořák interpreted by Manfred Honeck and Rudolf Buchbinder. The next day, Philippe Jordan conducts the Strauss-program, and on August 30 Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov lead us into the passionate world of opera under the expert direction of Speranza Scappucci.
We look forward to these concerts with gratitude, confident that we will be able to play music together on stage again. We are also grateful to our audience for their loyalty, support and the many encouraging messages that reached us the past few months. We wish everyone a relaxing and happy summer and look forward to seeing again in late August!