The Vienna Philharmonic (Orchestra)|
The Vienna Philharmonic
There is perhaps no other musical ensemble more
consistently and closely associated with the history and tradition of European
classical music than the Vienna Philharmonic. In the course of its over 160 year
history, the musicians of this most prominent orchestra of the capital city of
music have been an integral part of a musical epoch which due to an abundance of
uniquely gifted composers and interpreters must certainly be regarded as unique.
The orchestra's close association with this rich musical
history is best illustrated by the statements of countless pre-eminent musical
personalities of the past. Richard Wagner described the orchestra as being one
of the most outstanding in the world; Anton Bruckner called it "the most
superior musical association"; Johannes Brahms counted himself as a "friend and
admirer"; Gustav Mahler claimed to be joined together through "the bonds of
musical art"; and Richard Strauss summarized these sentiments by saying: "All
praise of the Vienna Philharmonic reveals itself as understatement."
A Symbiotic Relationship: Vienna State Opera /
When Hans Knappertsbusch said that the Philharmonic was
"incomparable," his comment was correct in more ways than one. One notable
aspect of this incomparability is certainly the unique relationship between the
Vienna State Opera Orchestra and the private association known as the Vienna
Philharmonic. In accordance with Philharmonic statutes, only a member of the
Vienna State Opera Orchestra can become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Before joining the Philharmonic therefore, one must first successfully audition
for a position with the State Opera Orchestra and prove oneself capable over a
period of three years before becoming eligible to submit an application for
membership in the association of the Vienna Philharmonic. The engagement in the
Vienna State Opera Orchestra provides the musicians a financial stability which
would be impossible to attain without relinquishing their autonomy to private or
corporate sponsors. This independence which the Philharmonic musicians enjoy
through the opera is returned in kind due to a higher level of artistic
performance gained through the orchestra's experience on the concert podium.
Without the Vienna State Opera there would be no Vienna Philharmonic as we know
it, and in Vienna it is common knowledge that this symbiosis is advantageous for
both institutions, and that it greatly enriches the city's musical life.
Artistic and Entrepreneurial Autonomy
Since its inception through Otto Nicolai in 1842, the
fascination which the orchestra has exercised upon prominent composers and
conductors, as well as on audiences all over the world, is based not only on a
homogenous musical style which is carefully bequeathed from one generation to
the next, but also on its unique structure and history. The desire to provide
artistically worthy performances of the symphonic works of Mozart and Beethoven
in their own city led to the decision on the part of the court opera musicians
to present a "Philharmonic" concert series independent of their work at the
opera, and upon their own responsibility and risk. The organizational form
chosen for this new enterprise was democracy, a concept which in the political
arena was the subject of bloody battles only six years later.
Over the course of one and a half centuries, this chosen
path of democratic self-administration has experienced slight modifications, but
has never been substantially altered. The foremost ruling body of the
organization is the full orchestra membership itself. In addition to the yearly
general business meeting (required by law), several additional meetings of the
full orchestra take place during the year. At these meetings, any and every
issue may be brought up and voted upon. In actual practice, numerous decisions
are delegated to the twelve elected members of the administrative committee.
These members find out at periodically scheduled elections if their
decision-making still inspires the trust of the entire orchestra. With the
exception of changes to the statutes, which require a 4/5 majority, all
decisions are made based on a simple majority, and the execution of those votes
is the responsibility of the administrative committee. While the expansion into
a mid-sized business enterprise has required the hiring of some extra
administrative personnel, it is nevertheless the elected officials, members of
the orchestra alone who make decisions and carry ultimate responsibility.
The Message of Music
The Vienna Philharmonic has made it its mission to
communicate the humanitarian message of music into the daily lives and
consciousness of its listeners. In 2005 the Vienna Philharmonic was named
Goodwill Ambassador of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The musicians
endeavour to implement the motto with which Ludwig von Beethoven, whose
symphonic works served as a catalyst for the creation of the orchestra, prefaced
his "Missa Solemnis" - "From the heart, to the heart".