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Tonkünstler-Orchester (Orchestra)

Founded: 1907 - Vienna, Austria

The Tonkunstler Orchestra (German: Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich) is an Austrian orchestra based in Vienna and St. Pölten, Lower Austria. The orchestra's name has its origins in the Tonkünstler-Sozietät, Wien, which was organizing concerts in the era of Haydn and W.A. Mozart. This name lived on in the Viennese "Tonkünstler Orchestra Association", which was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. The first concert was performed in 1907 at the Musikverein presenting works of Karl Goldmark, Edvard Grieg, Franz Liszt and L.v. Beethoven. In 1913 the Viennese Tonkünstler Orchestra were the first to perform Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder. The Sunday afternoon performances of the orchestra were very popular with the Viennese audience. During World War I, the orchestra had to merge with the so-called "Vienna Concertverein" due to financial hardships. The association continued to organise concerts until 1933.

In the mid-1930's, the National Socialist conductor Leopold Reichwein founded a new orchestra, which took the name N.S. Wiener Tonkünstlerorchester after Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938. The orchestra then became the Gausymphonieorchester Niederdonau in 1939. It was doing concerts throughout World War II, mostly with the Kraft durch Freude and in supporting the Wehrmacht. The orchestra renamed itself in 1945 to Landessymphonieorchester Niederösterreich. In 1946 this ensemble tied to the Tonkünstler tradition and called itself Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerorchester (Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra). The tradition of Sunday afternoon concerts was also revived. In 2002, the orchestra underwent a re-structuring process and is now called Tonkünstler-Orchesters Niederösterreich (Tonkünstler Orchestra of Lower Austria). The Tonkünstler was the first Austrian orchestra with a division focused solely on music education.

From 2004 to 2009, Kristjan Järvi was principal conductor of the orchestra, and his work with the orchestra included a commercial recording of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. In the 2009-2010 season, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who was the orchestra's assistant conductor for two years, took up the post of principal conductor. His current contract with the orchestra is through the 2014-2015 season, after which he is scheduled to step down as principal conductor. In November 2013, the orchestra announced the appointment of Yutaka Sado as its next principal conductor, effective with the 2015-2016 season, with an initial contract of 3 years.

Tonkünstler Orchestra has its residencies in Vienna and Lower Austria. In Vienna, they perform concerts in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein. The Musikverein "Glass Hall" serves as the orchestra's rehearsal room. As the state orchestra of Lower Austria, Tonkünstler have a second residency in Festspielhaus St. Pölten. From summer 2007, the orchestra is also "orchestra in residence" at the international Grafenegg Music Festival.


1907: Wiener Tonkünstler Orchester founded with 83 musicians; first concert on October 10, 1907 at the Vienna Musikverein. Conductors: Oskar Nedbal, Hans Pfitzner, Bernhard Stavenhagen
1913: Premiere of the Gurre-Lieder by Arnold Schoenberg with the Philharmonic Choir; Conductor: Franz Schreker
1919 to 1923: Principal Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler
1932-1933 season: Guest conductors: Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch, Hermann Abendroth
1932: Merger between the Wiener Tonkünstler-Orchester and the Wiener Concertverein; disbandment of the Wiener Tonkünstler-Orchester as an organisation
1933 to 1944: NS Wiener Tonkünstlerorchester and Gausymphonieorchester Niederdonau under Austrofascism and National Socialism
After 1945: Niederösterreichisches Landes-Symphonie-Orchester (State Symphony Orchestra of Lower Austria), numerous concerts in Lower Austria, but primarily in Vienna
October 6, 1946: Revival of the Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Vienna Konzerthaus with a “Bruckner Memorial Concert”
Since 1949: Sunday Afternoon Concerts at the Vienna Musikverein
January 27, 1950: Constitutive meeting of the organisation the Niederösterreichisches Tonkünstlerochester
1954 to 1965: Over 240 concerts for the Lower Austrian Chamber of Labour
1955 to 1988: Concerts in the arcaded courtyard at Vienna City Hall
1957: Diploma concert with Zubin Mehta and Claudio Abbado
Autumn 1957: Tour of Germany with Elly Ney
1963 to 1975: Music Director: Heinz Wallberg
September 1979: Tour of the USA
1985: First tour of Japan
June 1992: Second tour of Japan
1995 to 2000: Music Director: Fabio Luisi
June 1996: Third tour of Japan
March 1, 1997: Opening of the Festspielhaus St. Pölten with Gustav Mahler's Symphony No.2 “Resurrection”, since then the resident orchestra at St. Pölten
2000 to 2003: Music Director: Carlos Kalmar
March 1, 2002: Founding of the Niederösterreichische Tonkünstler Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H.
2003: Relocation of the management and music library to the Festspielhaus St. Pölten
2003: Founding of the “Tonspiele” music education department
2004 to 2009: Music Director: Kristjan Järvi
2005: Signing of a permanent funding agreement with the state of Lower Austria; incorporated into the NÖ Kulturwirtschaft umbrella organisation
2007-2008 season: Jubilee season celebrating 100 years of the Tonkunstler
June 21, 2007: Opening of the Wolkenturm, Grafenegg; first Grafenegg Festival, since then the resident orchestra at the festival
November 8, 2007: First Plugged-In concert at the Vienna Musikverein
2008: Opening of the Auditorium, Grafenegg
2009 to 2015: Music Director: Andrés Orozco-Estrada
From the 2015-2016 concert season: Music Director: Yutaka Sado

Principal Conductors

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1919-1923)
Leopold Reichwein (1933-1939)
Bert Costa (1939-1943)
Friedrich Jung (1944-1945)
Kurt Wöss (1946-1951)
Gustav Koslik (1951-1964)
Heinz Wallberg (1964-1975)
Walter Weller (1975-1978)
Miltiades Caridis (1978-1988)
Isaac Karabtchevsky (1988-1994)
Fabio Luisi (1994-2000)
Carlos Kalmar (2000-2003)
Kristjan Järvi (2004-2009)
Andrés Orozco-Estrada (2009-2014)
Yutaka Sado (2015-Present)

Source: Wikipedia Website (December 2016); Tonkünstler-Orchester Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2017)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Gottfried Preinfalk

Orchestra & Choir

V-1 (1952): BWV 245 [Abridged Version; as Austrian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus]

Links to other Sites

Tonkünstler Orchester (Official Website) [German/English]
Tonkünsler Orchestra (Wikipedia)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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Last update: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 07:23