School Concert 2013-14

Red Roses for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Wiener Symphoniker revives the tradition of Young People’s Concerts

At the conclusion of the Wiener Symphoniker’s Young People’s Concert in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein on December 19, 2013, several students laid red roses before the enormous, onstage portrait of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Representing their fellow students in the hall, they paid homage to the composer. The long-lasting applause of 1,300 young people attested to a concert that was extremely well received. The programme featured Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, but the students saw and heard considerably more that morning than sections of the Pathètique. By way of this concert, the orchestra achieved a timely renewal of an important Wiener Symphoniker tradition: In the 1950s, the conductor Han Swarowsky had already established a concert series in collaboration with the City of Vienna. Until well into the 1970s, school classes were invited to attend performances of classical orchestral repertoire, and several weeks beforehand, teachers received preparatory materials and recordings. In addition to the works performed at the concert, photographs were projected onto the wall and specific instruments were introduced. 

FILM - „Symphonie Pathétique“
19. December 2013, 10.00 Uhr
Musikverein Wien, Great Hall

Marius Stieghorst conductor
Christoph Matl presenter
Karin Steinbrugger choreography
Bettina Büttner-Krammer concept & producer

Total Playing Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Forty years later, its took the form expressed on stage in Vienna’s Musikverein. An actor, Christoph Matl, delivered the message by slipping into the role of the composer’s nephew. He provided historical and emotional context from his own point of view, and thereby served as an anchor for the young audience. Several pieces of furniture and everyday items generated late nineteenth-century associations. Along with Samovars and Matryoshka dolls, these items placed us in the master’s apartment, which had to be vacated after his death, and identified Russia as the composer’s birthplace. The nephew led an audience between the ages of ten and fourteen through the final months of Tchaikovsky's life, which was also the period in which he composed the Pathètique. As a means of transmitting feelings, he used his own grief, on the one hand, and the composer’s original diary entries and letters, on the other. The latter provided information about Tchaikovsky's sense of abandonment, but also about his intoxicating love of life.  

Not only the orchestra musicians and Tchaikovsky’s nephew controlled the action on stage, however, because students from the New Georg Wilhelm Pabstgasse Middle School in Vienna’s Tenth District also suddenly appeared from within the ranks of the orchestra. They created choreographed commentaries on the composer’s emotions. The choreographer Karin Steinbrugger worked with the students who participated in the Pathètique.

And this is how four worlds met in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein: The professional musicians of the Wiener Symphoniker under the direction of Marius Stieghorst, the actor Christoph Matl in the dual role of Tchaikovsky’s nephew and moderator, the students of the New Middle School, who got involved in the action choreographically, and the students in the audience who were there to listen and watch.

(An abbreviated version of the nmz 2/2014 article by Constanze Wimmer)


For this concert, the teachers were supplied with comprehensive biographical  material and information about the work. At a joint teachers’ workshop, they were also introduced to practical teaching methods. Moreover, fifteen school classes took part in creative workshops with musicians from the Wiener Symphoniker.


The students and teachers were thrilled! The feedback they provided to the Wiener Symphoniker’s educational outreach representative, Bettina Büttner-Krammer, turned out to be wholly positive. The orchestra musicians and management also support the broad range of approaches to outreach, and the Young People's Concert provides an anchor in the midst of them. So there is nothing standing in the way of continuing with the programme. Incidentally, just a few days later the Beethoven Orchester in Bonn utilised a modified version of the concept in performance. This introduces an entirely new approach to collaboration in the area of educational outreach. And in terms of performing activity, it surely has the potential to bear fruit from here on.