Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor
MAHLER Symphony No. 9
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.