Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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
Orchestra. In the course of its more than 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 that-thanks 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 preeminent musical personalities of the past. Richard Wagner
described the orchestra as among the most outstanding in the world; Anton Bruckner called
it "the most superior musical association"; Johannes Brahms counted himself a "friend and
admirer"; Gustav Mahler claimed to be joined with the ensemble through "the bonds of
musical art." Richard Strauss summarized these sentiments by saying, "All praise of the
Vienna Philharmonic reveals itself as understatement."
The Vienna State Opera Orchestra holds a special relationship with 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. The
engagement in the Vienna State Opera Orchestra provides the musicians a financial stability
that would be impossible to attain without relinquishing their autonomy to private or
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's mission is to communicate the humanitarian message of
music into the daily lives and consciousness of its listeners. In 2005, the orchestra was
named Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization, and since 2006, the orchestra
has also been a supporter of the Phonak initiative Hear the World. As of November
2008, Rolex is the worldwide presenting sponsor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The
musicians endeavor to implement the motto with which Ludwig van Beethoven-whose symphonic
works served as a catalyst for the creation of the orchestra-prefaced his Missa
solemnis: "From the heart, to the heart."
Born in Berlin, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt spent his youth in Graz, Austria. Heeding
his early artistic ambition, he studied cello in Vienna, and joined the Vienna Symphony
Orchestra in 1952. A year later, Mr. Harnoncourt and his wife Alice founded the Concentus
Musicus Wien ensemble, providing a forum for Mr. Harnoncourt's increasingly intensive work
with period instruments and with Renaissance and baroque musical performance tradition. He
collected historical instruments and, in addition to his performing and conducting
activities, devoted his time to philosophical analyses of Musik als Klangrede
("music as speech"), which to date remain seminal works on the performance of early music.
From 1972, Mr. Harnoncourt taught performance practice and the study of historical
instruments at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, while at the same time enjoying
growing success as an opera conductor. His debut at the Theater an der Wien with
Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria in 1971 was followed by the
now-legendary cycle of Monteverdi operas, which he developed in collaboration with
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, director of the Opernhaus Zurich. This cycle was followed by an
equally exemplary and groundbreaking cycle of Mozart operas.
Mr. Harnoncourt's career as a conductor of both orchestral works and operas encompasses
Viennese Classicism, the Romantic repertoire, and works from the 20th century. With the
Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Berliner Philharmoniker, Mr. Harnoncourt constantly
reinterprets and rediscovers the grand repertoire of orchestral work.
A central venue for many of these projects has been-and still is-the Styriarte Festival,
founded in 1985 to establish a closer link between Mr. Harnoncourt and his home city of
Graz. This is also where he first conducted Schumann's Genoveva, the Prelude and
Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and Verdi's Requiem. His
first scenic production of an opera followed in 2003 with Offenbach's La
Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein. In 2008, Mr. Harnoncourt both conducted and directed
Today, Mr. Harnoncourt is one of the few true stars among conductors worldwide.
Performances such as the New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
enable him to reach an audience of millions, displaying the characteristic passion and
fiery intensity that identify him, first and foremost, as a true servant of his art.