Since its founding in 1946 the Wiener Kammerorchester (= WKO) (Vienna Chamber Orchestra) has become firmly established in the musical world. Numerous artistic directors and guest conductors have contributed to attaining the artistic status that has won esteem both at home and abroad. The history of the orchestra begins with Franz Litschauer, Heinrich Hollreiser, Paul Angerer and Carlo Zecchi, the artistic directors who stood on the podium in the first years of the ensemble's existence. Philippe Entremont took over this position between 1976 and 1991. Since then he has been lifetime honorary conductor. He continues to lead the orchestra on tour and in its matinee subscription series at the Vienna Konzerthaus. His appearances as conductor and soloist have formed a tradition, as the orchestra has frequently invited artists to collaborate in a dual role, be it Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Heinz Holliger, Heinrich Schiff or Ola Rudner. Ernst Kovacic, named to the chief conducting post for a two year period after Philippe Entremont, also preserved this tradition.
Numerous artists, in addition to the ones mentioned above, have left their mark in concerts with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. Sándor Végh, first and foremost, engaged in a long and fruitful cooperation up to his death in 1977. Conductors like Adam Fischer, Sir Neville Marriner, Jordi Savall or Peter Schreier; singers such as Cecilia Bartoli, Teresa Berganza, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Edita Gruberova or Kiri Te Kanawa; and instrumental soloists, among them Oleg Maisenberg, Vadim Repin, Friedrich and Paul Gulda, Thomas Zehetmair, Lynn Harrel, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Richard Stoltzman, Emmanuel Pahud, Thomas Friedrich, Anne Gastinel and Stefan Vladar impressively document the artistic quality of this ensemble.
The Vienna Chamber Orchestra appears in its home city in its own concert series and individual concerts. In addition to the matinee subscription series, it presents the ‘International Prizewinner Series’, where first prize winners from major international competitions demonstrate their skill. The orchestra also participates in the ‘Symphonie Classique’ series, as well as in special projects, like the Silent Film Festival, Wien modern, oratorios or concertante opera performances. But it is also to be heard often in the rest of Austria and around the world. Few other orchestras can look back on such an extensive touring activity (in more than 65 countries!).
The Vienna Chamber Orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996 with a tour of the USA and numerous commemorative concerts. The activities continued on into the next year, with tours through the USA, Europe and Japan on the program, as well as appearances at international festivals and special concerts. Extensive tours, to Spain, Germany, the USA and South America, are also planned for the current season.
Its presence at home and abroad, its multifaceted repertoire – documented by a comprehensive discography, and not least its typical Viennese sound which gives the orchestra its unmistakable character have all made the Vienna Chamber Orchestra one of Austria's leading musical ambassadors.