The Vienna Philharmonic
January 30, 2007 at 10:10 PM
Founded in 1841 by Otto Nicolai, the Vienna Philharmonic is a name synonymous with high quality orchestral playing. When the Philharmonic was founded, it was mostly made up of musicians from the Hofoper, the Court Opera of the Habsburg’s. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Philharmonic is its unique sound. The Philharmonic is and has been known for its mellow sound, or as it is known to many, the “Vienna sound.” While the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the London Symphony have a very clipped and precise sound, the Vienna Philharmonic has a much softer, gentler, though no less clear, sound. However, a more gentle sound does not mean they lack the power of the other major orchestras of the world. The manner in which the Philharmonic molds sound, projects emotions and causes the music to live makes the orchestra a home for classical music.
On several occasions I had the opportunity to hear the Vienna Philharmonic, or a least members of it, perform live. One of my first experiences with the orchestra was at the Staatsoper. The first full day in Vienna a group of us traveled to the Staatsoper for our first attempt to obtain standing room tickets for a ballet, Die Puppenfee. While the ballet was funny and well done, my primary focus was on the pit orchestra. The sounds emanating from the pit were smooth, clear, and mellow. It was during this first encounter of the orchestra that I had a small glimpse of what was to come in subsequent encounters.
Four days later I had my second encounter with the Philharmonic, again at the Staatsoper. On that night, they were doing a production of Le Nozze di Figaro. During this performance I was able to hear how the normal mellow sound of the Philharmonic players would sound with the light and playful music of Mozart. The sound coming out of the pit was laced with the playful and light spirit of Mozart composition. However, the sound was also rich, mellow, and flowing.
My final encounter with the Vienna Philharmonic occurred at a concert where I heard the entire Philharmonic live at the Musikverein. The program for the concert was Stravinsky’s Petrouska and Dvorak’s Symphony 8. During the first half of the concert I, as well as many others, were in the area for standing room. Stravinsky’s work was brought to life by the Philharmonic. The performance was full of passion, beauty of sound and musicality, as was the “Vienna sound.” During the intermission some of us managed to find some seats on the stage, near the cello and French horn sections. From there I was able to realize the full power of the Philharmonic. When the full orchestra played, the stage shook. Dvorak’s music came alive and seemed as new to me as the day it was premiered. It was full of colors, shapes, emotions and extreme amounts of energy. Every note had a direction, every note seemed important. Throughout the entire performance the music lived. Even after the final chord had stopped echoing in the hall, the feelings, sounds and energy remained. For me even now, the sounds, the wonder of that performance remains and the home for classical music is more fully realized.
Yeah they are one of my favorite orchestras as well besides the London Symphony. I'm glad how you brought up how they are able to play with lightness yet when the power is needed - it's there. I think all the members play with great pride and it shows in their performances.
Hmmmmmm, there are certain areas they have very little to be proud about. Quite the contrary.
until they change their policies, I am boycotting Vienna; didn't go to see them when we were in Vienna last year. I am a terribly little grain but whatever they do, at least not with my money.
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