Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor
Igor Levit, Piano
IVES Decoration Day
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3
BRAHMS Symphony No. 2
SCHUMANN "Kind im Einschlummern" and "Der Dichter spricht" from Kinderszenen, Op. 15
BRAHMS Hungarian Dance No. 10 in F Major (arr. Brahms)
There is perhaps no other musical ensemble more closely associated with the history and tradition of European classical music than the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In the course of the past 177 years, the orchestra has experienced and influenced the course of musical history around the world. To this day, prominent soloists and conductors refer to the unique “Viennese sound” as the outstanding quality that sets it apart from other orchestras.
Since its foundation by Otto Nicolai in 1842, the fascination that the orchestra has held for prominent composers and conductors—as well as for audiences all around the world—is based upon the conscious maintenance of a homogenous musical style, which is carefully bequeathed from one generation to the next, as well as a unique history and organizational structure. The pillars of the “Philharmonic idea,” which remain in place today, are a democratic organization that places the entire artistic and organizational decision-making process in the hands of the musicians themselves, and a close symbiosis with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. From the beginning, the orchestra has displayed a strong social consciousness, characterized by a commitment to individuals in need and the fostering of young musicians.
The orchestra’s touring activity commenced at the beginning of the 20th century and has since taken the orchestra to continents around the globe. In recent years, this has included regularly scheduled concerts in Germany, Japan, the US, and China.
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra performs approximately 40 concerts annually in Vienna, including the New Year’s Concert and the Summer Night Concert Schönbrunn, which are broadcast in numerous countries. The orchestra also has an annual summer residency at the Salzburg Festival and performs more than 50 concerts a year on its international tours. All of these activities underscore the reputation of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as one of the world’s finest orchestras.
The orchestra has been the recipient of numerous prizes and awards. Since 2008, it has been supported by Rolex, its exclusive sponsor.
Michael Tilson Thomas is music director of the San Francisco Symphony, founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, and principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. A Los Angeles native, he began his formal studies at the University of Southern California, and at age 19 was named music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. Mr. Tilson Thomas worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland at the famed Monday Evening Concerts, and was pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz. In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). That year, he gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg mid-concert at Lincoln Center. He was later appointed principal guest conductor of the BSO, where he remained until 1974. Mr. Tilson Thomas was music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1971 to 1979 and a principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His recorded repertoire of more than 120 discs includes works by such composers as Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky, as well as Ives, Ruggles, Steve Reich, Cage, Dahl, Feldman, Gershwin, John McLaughlin, and Elvis Costello.
In February 1988, Mr. Tilson Thomas inaugurated the New World Symphony, an orchestral academy for graduates of prestigious music programs. In addition to their regular season in Miami Beach, they have toured in Austria, France, Great Britain, South America, Japan, Israel, Holland, Italy, and the US. In 1991, Mr. Tilson Thomas and the orchestra were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the US, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF.
Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America’s Musician and Conductor of the Year, was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2015, and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. In 2008, he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files, and in 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
Igor Levit is the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year and the 2018 recipient of the Gilmore Artist Award. Last October, Sony Classical released Life, Mr. Levit’s highly anticipated fourth album for the label. In the 2018–2019 season, he appears in recital in Vienna, Hamburg, Munich, Antwerp, Liège, and Dresden; makes his Paris and Tokyo recital debuts in the spring; and gives recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall.
Mr. Levit made debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival during the summer of 2018. This season, his orchestral debuts include appearances with the Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Filarmonica della Scala, and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He also returns to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Highlights of past seasons include debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Staatskapelle Dresden, The Cleveland Orchestra, and London Symphony Orchestra. Additional highlights include the 2017 Opening Night of the BBC Proms alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, and a tour to Asia with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Kirill Petrenko.
An exclusive recording artist for Sony Classical, Mr. Levit’s debut CD of Beethoven’s last five piano sonatas won BBC Music Magazine’s 2014 Newcomer of the Year Award and the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2014 Young Artist Award. In October 2015, Sony Classical released his third solo album in collaboration with the Heidelberger Frühling International Music Festival, which features Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated!. The album won Gramophone’s Instrumental Award and Recording of the Year Award in 2016.
Born in Russia, Mr. Levit moved to Germany with his family at age eight. He completed his piano studies at the Hanover University of Music, Drama, and Media in 2009 and also studied with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Matti Raekallio, Bernd Goetze, Lajos Rovátkay, and Hans Leygraf. As the youngest participant in the 2005 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv, Mr. Levit won the Silver Prize, the Audience Prize, and prizes for the best performance of chamber music and contemporary music.