The Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester (Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; = GMJO) was founded in Vienna in 1986/1987 on the initiative of Claudio Abbado. Today it is regarded as the world’s leading youth orchestra and was awarded by the European Cultural Foundation in 2007.
As well as supporting young musicians and their work, Claudio Abbado was keen to encourage the music making of young Austrian musicians together with colleagues from the then socialist republics of Czechoslovakia and Hungary. As a consequence, the GMJO became the first international youth orchestra to hold open auditions in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. In 1992, the GMJO opened up to musicians aged up to 26 from all over Europe. As the youth orchestra for the whole of Europe, it is under the patronage of the Council of Europe.
At the auditions that take place every year in over twenty-five European cities, an international jury selects candidates from an average of 2000 applicants. Prominent orchestra musicians are members of this jury and also responsible for the preparation of the repertoire in the individual sections during the rehearsal periods of the orchestra.
The GMJO tour repertoire ranges from classical to contemporary music with the emphasis on the great symphonic works of the Romantic and late Romantic periods. Its high artistic level and international success have prompted many leading conductors and soloists to perform with the GMJO, such as Claudio Abbado, David Afkham, Herbert Blomstedt, Pierre Boulez, Myung-Whun Chung, Sir Colin Davis, Péter Eötvös, Christoph Eschenbach, Iván Fischer, Daniele Gatti, Bernard Haitink, Paavo Järvi, Mariss Jansons, Philippe Jordan, Vladimir Jurowski, Ingo Metzmacher, Kent Nagano, Václav Neumann, Jonathan Nott, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Antonio Pappano, and Franz Welser-Möst. Amongst the renowned soloists to have worked with the GMJO are Martha Argerich, Yuri Bashmet, Lisa Batiashvili, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Christian Gerhaher, Matthias Goerne, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Leonidas Kavakos, Evgeny Kissin, Christa Ludwig, Radu Lupu, Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Anne Sofie von Otter, Maxim Vengerov, and Frank Peter Zimmermann.
The GMJO has been a regular guest at the most prestigious concert halls and festivals for many years, such as the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Suntory Hall in Tokyo, the Mozarteum Argentino in Buenos Aires, the Salzburg Festival and the Salzburg Easter Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival, the BBC Proms, the Semperoper Dresden, and the Lucerne Festival.
Many former members of the GMJO are now members of leading European orchestras, some of them in principal positions. In 2012, an intensive partnership with the renowned Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden was announced which includes concerts and projects involving members of both orchestras.
The Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester was appointed “Ambassador UNICEF Austria” on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. Erste Bank and Vienna Insurance Group – Partners of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester.