History of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde

1812

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna is founded, in response to the overwhelming success of a charitable concert hosted by the Gesellschaft adeliger Frauen zur Beförderung des Guten und Nützlichen (Noblewomen’s Society for the Advancement of Good and Benevolence) at the Imperial Winter Riding School (known today as the Spanish Riding School): A choir and orchestra of approximately 600 people, most of them amateurs, performs Handel’s oratorio „Timotheus oder Die Gewalt der Musik“ for an audience of 5,000.

The rapturous reception for the concert leads to an immediate commitment to undertake a second performance, and the suggestion to bring the friends of music in Vienna together in the form of an association. Joseph Sonnleithner, the enterprising secretary of the Gesellschaft adeliger Frauen, makes an invaluable contribution, laying the foundations for the new society and collecting signatures in support. By the end of the year, 507 “Friends of Music” have declared their support for the initiative. They become the founding members of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.Plakat Eröffnungskonzert


1813

The society’s statutes are put forward for approval. The Friends of Music announce their arrival on the music scene in an impressive manner with a new performance of “Timotheus” in two concerts, each involving more than 600 participants.


1814

Imperial consent for the foundation of the society is granted, and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna is able to begin its work. Its first secretary is Joseph Sonnleitner. The patron of the society is Archduke Rudolph , brother of the reigning Emperor and personal friend of Ludwig van Beethoven.

The statutes define the “main object” of the society as . With this ambitious aim, the Musikverein commits itself from the outset to an open and dynamic approach of continual development and improvement.

An abundance of activities serve this purpose. The newly founded Gesellschaft not only hosts concerts (performed exclusively by practising members of the society), but also founds a conservatory and an archive for the purposes of musical study. For almost 100 years, this private conservatory is the premiere musical academy of the Habsburg monarchy, coming into state ownership in 1911. The archive, library and collections remain key constituent elements of the society, which on this basis possesses the most important private musical collection in the world today.

By 1814 the Musikverein has already gained prominence as a concert-giving institution, performing Handel’s “Samson” for the participants of the Congress of Vienna.

1815

The Kleiner Redoutensaal of the imperial Hofburg palace plays host to the first subscription concert of the Gesellschaft. The idea that amateur music lovers should perform only for one another and that only they might be members is soon revised. The interest among non-members is so great that a third concert by the society has to be moved to a larger venue: the Großer Redoutensaal.

1817

The Konservatorium of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde begins its work with two singing classes. The director of this “singing school” is Antonio Salieri.

1818

With the introduction of “musical evening entertainments” the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde sets the fundamental tone for its programme policy. Alongside large choral and orchestral works, regular chamber music, lieder and polyphonic vocal performances are scheduled.

1822

The Gesellschaft rents premises within a building on the Tuchlauben in Vienna, “Zum roten Igel” .

1826

Ludwig van Beethoven is made an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. Franz Schubert dedicates his Great C Major Symphony to the society. Both artists are also closely involved with the Musikverein. In 1827, Schubert becomes a member of the Board of Representatives, a managing body of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

1829

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde buys “Zum roten Igel”, the building it had formerly rented, planning to replace this with a new building bringing the diverse activities of the Musikverein together under one roof.

1830

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde invites guests to dance with the establishment of its first Ball. The tradition lives on – albeit with some breaks -for more than 100 years. The last Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Ball takes place in 1951.

1831

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde opens the doors to its new premises in the Tuchlauben, Vienna. Designed by Franz Lössl, the building also contains a concert hall for c. 700 people. This is Vienna’s first purpose-built concert hall – previously, concerts took place in salons or theatres that served multiple purposes.

Upon the death of Archduke Rudolph, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna inherits his music library. With the arrival of 90 chests, each weighing 250 kilogrammes, priceless musical artefacts become part of the Musikverein’s collection.

1837

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its 25th anniversary in the Imperial Winter Riding School. More than 1000 people take part in two concerts performing Haydn’s “Creation”.

1847

Once again, more than 1000 participants are scheduled to take part in a music festival hosted by the society, at which Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy is to conduct his work “Elias”. The posters are already printed by the time news of the 38-year-old composer’s death reaches Vienna. The performance becomes a moving memorial concert for his early death.

1848

The revolutionary unrest of the times also affects the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. For nine months, the society gives no concert performances and teaching is temporarily suspended at the Konservatorium. The Musikverein faces a severe financial crisis.

1851

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde itself undertakes a comprehensive reform of the organisation to overcome the crisis. The number of members continues to grow and the Konservatorium is able to resume its activities. Alongside streamlining the internal structure, a new artistic direction proves decisive: the orchestra for the society’s concerts is from now on to be no longer composed of practising members, i.e. amateurs, but rather of professional musicians. The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde’s professionalisation is also a response to the founding of the Vienna Philharmonic in 1842.

1857

The Musikverein also receives help to overcome the financial crisis due to a significant bequest. Karl Czerny, Beethoven’s famous pupil and a composer, pianist and piano teacher, leaves a quarter of his large fortune to the Gesellschaft.

1858

While orchestral music is put into the hands of professionals, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde takes another approach with choral music. This remains the domain of practising amateur members – albeit in a new and highly efficient form. Thus the Singverein is founded as a branch society of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, with rising star Johann Herbeck as its first choral director. Under his leadership, the choir soon develops into an outstanding vocal ensemble in much demand among composers.
Up to the present day – in principle at least – not much has changed. The Singverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde is an “amateur choir”, while also being one of the best concert choirs in the world.

1859

To provide the instrumentalists among their members with a forum of their own, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde founds a second branch society, the Orchesterverein. This too keeps the tradition of “practising members” alive. The Orchesterverein today remains an enthusiastic amateur orchestra with a very active role in concert life.

1862

The celebratory performance of the “Messiah” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Musikverein testifies to its extraordinary cultural importance. Emperor Franz Joseph I. and Empress Elisabeth attend the concert together with other members of the imperial family and government representatives of the highest level.

1863

The Vienna Ringstrasse era heralds an opportunity for the Musikverein to erect a new and magnificent building of its own. As early as 1858 – just as the demolition of the medieval city wall was beginning – the Gesellschaft had approached the Emperor with a plea for a building plot to be granted, as a larger building is deemed urgently necessary. This time now arrives, and the Emperor gifts the Gesellschaft a building plot on the left bank of the river Wien.

1865

Schubert’s “Unfinished” symphony receives its premiere performance at a concert given by the Gesellschaft. The conductor is Johann Herbeck, who has recently received the manuscript from Schubert’s friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner.

1867

The architect Theophil Hansen is contracted to build the new Musikverein building. The funding comes not only from the Austrian state – the Emperor grants funding from the state lotteries – but also and mainly from private donors. Members and friends of the Musikverein are closely involved with the fundraising effort and contribute to the building costs. The Gesellschaft itself creates incentives by providing special privileges to “Benefactors“ and “Founders”.

The Singverein and the orchestra of the Gesellschaft under Johann Herbeck stage the premiere performance of Brahms’ „Deutschem Requiem“.

1868

Anton Bruckner is appointed as Professor for Harmony and Counterpoint at the Konservatorium of the Gesellschaft.

1870

The new Musikverein building opens. Emperor Franz Joseph I lays the capstone at a ceremony marking the completion of the build on 5 January. On 6 January, the first Gesellschaft concert takes place in the Großer Musikvereinssaal. Johann Herbeck conducts a programme that reveals the multiple acoustic advantages of the new auditorium. The first visitors express their delight at the “wonderful harmony of the architecture” (Eduard Hanslick). The design of the Musikverein building by Theophil Hansen, a Danish architect who had previously spent several years working in Athens, is acclaimed as a historicist masterpiece.

At the opening ball, Johann Strauß conducts his waltz “Freuet Euch des Lebens”, which he dedicates to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde: one of many Johann Strauß premieres that will take place in the Musikverein.

The first concert in the Kleiner Musikvereinssaal, later known as the Brahms Saal, is performed by Clara Schumann.

1872

The new organ is presented in the Großer Musikvereinssaal. Anton Bruckner performs improvisations for an audience upon the new instrument.

Johannes Brahms becomes Artistic Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. This function combines the duties of a chief conductor with those of a director. Brahms, who is uncomfortable with the administrative duties in particular, leaves this position after three years. He remains closely connected to the Musikverein, however, until the end of his life.

1875

Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf become students at the Konservatorium.

1877

At the world premiere of his Third Symphony, Anton Bruckner suffers his greatest professional humiliation. The audience abandon the auditorium in droves and only about two dozen remain until the end.

1881

Franz Liszt conducts a concert performance of his own works by the Gesellschaft. He too is closely connected with the Musikverein, having been granted honorary membership by the Gesellschaft as early as 1838.

1884

Hans Richter, who had conducted the first public performance of Wagner’s “Ring des Nibelungen” at the Bayreuth Festival in 1876, becomes Concert Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. He retains this position until 1890.

1885

At the initiative of the Gesellschaft, an international tuning pitch conference takes place in Vienna, to set an agreed pitch standard for the concert pitch A (at that time 870 simple harmonic oscillations).

1886

In a concert performance by the Gesellschaft, the Singverein perform the world premiere of Bruckners „Te Deum“ under Hans Richter.

1897

Following the death of Johannes Brahms his artistic estate enters the archive. This includes his music manuscripts, his library and letters written to him. The Brahms collection in the Archive of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde is declared part of Unesco World Cultural Heritage in 2005.

1900

The Wiener Concert-Verein is founded as the first professional orchestra in Vienna, dedicated entirely to concert performance. This development is in response to an increased interest in symphonic music performed to the highest professional standard. The Concert-Verein takes on all concert duties of the Gesellschaft’s concert performances from the 1900/01 season onwards. Ferdinand Löwe, conductor of the Wiener Concert-Verein, also becomes concert director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1900.

1904

Franz Schalk succeeds Ferdinand Löwe as concert director. He remains in post until 1921 and establishes a continuing standard of excellence for Gesellschaft concerts.

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1905 

A workers’ symphony concert is performed at the Musikverein.

1907

The Vienna Tonkünstlerorchester is founded as a second concert orchestra. This later merges with the Wiener Concert-Verein in the 1930s to form the Wiener Symphoniker.

1909

The Konservatorium of the Gesellschaft becomes a state institution known as the K. K. Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Known today as the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, this is one of the largest and most famous performing arts universities for music, theatre and film.

1910

The Singverein travels to Munich, to perform during the world premiere of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, conducted by the composer.

1911

Under the direction of Hansen’s pupil Ludwig Richter the Musikverein building undergoes renovation. The Caryatids are moved further back to allow for greater visibility of the podium and the entrances to the auditorium are redesigned. The Gesellschaft does so partly in response to enhanced safety standards established after the catastrophic fire at the Vienna Ringtheater in 1881.

1912

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its centenary with a comprehensive programme of performances.

1913

A concert with new music by Zemlinsky, Mahler, Berg and Webern, performed under the leadership of Arnold Schönberg in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, mutates into a „concert scandal“. There is uproar and fighting even breaks out. The police have to intervene and the concert is halted.

The K. K. Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst moves into its new premises in Lothringerstraße. This leads to changes in the use of space in the Musikverein, which secures tenants including the Wiener Philharmoniker, the music publisher Universal Edition and the piano manufacturers Bösendorfer, which rents office and sales space in the Parterre.

1918

The end of the First World War also seals the fate of the monarchy. This only leaves slight traces in the history of the Musikverein. The Gesellschaft loses its royal seal of approval denoted by the prefix “K. K.” and its last royal protector, Archduke Eugen, although he retains a close connection with the Musikverein thereafter.

In the Musikverein institution, the idea of the Salzburger Festival takes shape. The newly founded Salzburger Festspielhaus organisation meets here under the leadership of the president of the Musikverein.

1921

Wilhelm Furtwängler becomes concert director of the Gesellschaft. He proves himself to be a new kind of conductor, active on the international stage and not exclusively linked to Vienna. Because of this, a second concert director is appointed alongside: firstly Leopold Reichwein, then – from 1927 – Robert Heger, who becomes the sole concert director in 1930.

1932

Musikverein concerts are broadcast live on radio for the first time.

1937

The Kleiner Musikvereinssaal undergoes alterations and is renamed the Brahms-Saal, the name it retains today.

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its 125th anniversary with a week-long programme of special events in December. Franz Schmidt writes the oratorio „Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln“, in honour of the event, one of the most important choral works of the 20th century. The world premiere takes place in June 1938 in the Großer Musikvereinssaal with the Singverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

1938

On 12 March, Hitler’s troops march into Austria. The annexation of the country by Germany, known as the „Anschluss“ has immediate consequences for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Franz Schütz, Organ Professor at the Academy for Music and the Performing Arts, suddenly takes operational control of the Gesellschaft at the behest of the NSDAP (commonly known as the Nazi Party). The management team are removed – partly in response to their public support for an independent Austria at the end of February. An authoritarian management team is imposed, eventually taking the name “Arbeitsbeirat” (“Works council”). The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde is amalgamated within the “Staatstheater- und Bühnenakademie” (“State Theatre and Stage Academy”). The society retains its name and, outwardly, it seems as though nothing has changed. In fact, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as an independent and autonomous institution has ceased to exist.

The renowned musicologist Karl Geiringer, is removed “on racial grounds” as curator of the Gesellschaft and emigrates to England and thence to the USA. An order to remove works by Jewish composers and authors from the archive, library and collections of the Musikverein is not implemented. The Musikverein’s refusal takes place with the tacit approval of Franz Schütz.

Oswald Kabasta, , concert director of the Gesellschaft since 1933, becomes chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. Wilhelm Furtwängler once again becomes concert director in Vienna.

1939

As the institution is brought under political control under political control, the large musical instrument collection of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde is transferred to the state collection of the Museum of Art History. After the war, the collection’s rightful ownership is restored and the Gesellschaft is given back its property.

On 11 June, on his 75th birthday, Richard Strauss conducts a celebratory concert in his honour by the Vienna Philharmonic in the Großer Musikvereinssaal.

1940

The politically controlled Gesellschaft and its choral institution, also no longer independent and now known as the “Sektion Singverein”, pay tribute to their new political masters and perform the world premiere of a work that Franz Schmidt left unfinished at his death in 1939: the cantata „Deutsche Auferstehung“.

1944 

Richard Strauss celebrates his 80th birthday by conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musikverein.

The intensifying bombing campaign over Vienna persuades those in charge to move valuable objects from the archive, library and collections into storage elsewhere.

1945

Concerts continue to take place at the Musikverein throughout the war. Even at the end of March – only six weeks before capitulation – concerts take place in the Großer Musikvereinssaal and the Brahms Saal. In the last days of the war a grenade is thrown into the building and destroys parts of the Goldener Saal, although fortunately no people are killed in the incident.

After the war’s end, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde quickly recovers its status as a democratic institution. Alexander Hryntschak, commissioned by Vienna’s mayor as the new director of the Gesellschaft, is voted in as president. Artistic and administrative management is undertaken by Rudolf Gamsjäger as general secretary.

„Songs from Austria“ is the motto of the first concert to take place in the Brahms Saal after the end of the war. Following the renovation of the Großer Musikvereinssaal, a “festive opening concert” can take place in September 1945. Josef Krips conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

1946

A jury meets in the Kammersaal of the Musikverein to choose the new Austrian national anthem. The music selected was at that time attributed to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but is now understood to be the work of Johann Baptist Holzer. A ministerial committee confirms the selection and a new text is sought for the anthem. This commission goes in 1947 to Paula von Preradovic.

1947

Wilhelm Furtwängler, having been forbidden to perform by order of the American occupying forces but declared “unbelastet” (“politically unincriminated”) in December 1946, becomes conductor in Vienna again in 1947. The Gesellschaft confirms him once again in the post of concert director. In December he conducts at the Musikverein for the first time after the end of the war. Despite huge protests, the concert is nonetheless able to take place.

In late summer of 1947, Herbert von Karajan‘s conducting ban is lifted. Karajan immediately begins to develop a strong presence in the concert life of the Musikverein. He had already made recordings as early as autumn 1946 in the Musikverein in a move to evade the conducting ban by legendary producer Walter Legge steht hinter dem Projekt, das schlau Karajans Auftrittsverbot umgeht. These recordings also bring Karajan together with the Singverein. for the first time. In 1947, this fresh alliance is brought to the stage for the first time with a brilliant performance of Beethoven’s “Ninth” by the Singverein in the Großer Musikvereinssaal conducted by Karajan. Until Karajan’s death, a further c. 250 such concerts will be performed around the world.

1948

The rivalry between Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan comes to a head at the Musikverein. Furtwängler, the nominal concert director, is now only available in a limited way for the Musikverein. Karajan seizes the chance and takes on an entire concert series during the 1948/49 season.

1950

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde marks the 200th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death with a Bach Festival. The preparations for this become the setting for a showdown between Furtwängler and Karajan. Furtwängler initially rejects an invitation to conduct the “Matthew Passion”. Karajan takes over the project and is already well advanced with rehearsals when Furtwängler changes his mind and announces he wishes to conduct the work after all. The Gesellschaft stands by Karajan and will not allow the Singverein to be made available for Furtwängler’s plans. Furtwängler leaves in anger and even returns his honorary membership to the Gesellschaft. Herbert von Karajan, who has been an honorary member himself since 1949, becomes concert director.

During the Bach Festival, Paul Hindemith conducts a concert of the Wiener Symphoniker. The composer, who had performed at the Musikverein as a viola player during the pre-war era, becomes an honorary member of the Gesellschaft in 1953.

With Beethoven‘s „Missa solemnis“ and particularly with Bach’s B Minor Mass, the Singverein a triumphant appearance with Karajan at the Scala in Milan. Toscanini reacts to the performance by acclaiming the “best choir in the world” (“il migliore coro del mondo”).

1954

The collections relinquish possession of what is perhaps their most macabre object: The skull of Joseph Haydn, owned by the Gesellschaft since 1895, is given to the provincial government of Burgenland, where it is united with the other mortal remains of the composer. A solemn ceremonial procession – almost at the level of a state funeral – leads from the Musikverein to the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt.

The Großer Musikvereinssaal has its gilding restored.

1956

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde contributes a „Mozart Festival“ (celebrating the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth) to the Wiener Festwochen. It is agreed that, in future, the Gesellschaft will host Festwochen concerts on a biennial basis, alternating with the Wiener Konzerthaus.

1957

During the post-war years, the Singverein continues to participate in high-profile premieres. These include the world premiere of „Gilgamesch“ by Alfred Uhl. A performance of Uhl’s “Wer einsam ist, der hat es gut” follows in 1961.

1960

Comprehensive improvements and changes are made to the Großer Musikvereinssaal. Side and Middle Balcony seating areas are redesigned.

1961

The world premiere performance of the tonally controversial „Philadelphia Symphony“ by Gottfried von Einem inspires debate about the direction taken by Neue Musik (contemporary classical music).

1962

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its 150th anniversary year throughout the entire season.

1963

The roof above the south wing of the building is raised to make space for the Archive, library and collection. A new exhibition space is also created.

1964

Witold Lutaslawski, William Walton and Peter Maxwell Davies are the winners of a new composition competition , announced as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations.

Herbert von Karajan resigns as director of the Vienna State Opera and leaves the city. He also stops conducting at the Musikverein for the foreseeable future.

1970

The Musikverein celebrates Beethoven Year and the 100th anniversary of the Musikverein building in grand style. Herbert von Karajan, still concert director (and remaining as such until his death), returns to the Musikverein.

1971

The Austrian premiere of Hans Werner Henzes „Das Floß der Medusa“ marks the entry of the revolutionary 1960s musical movement into Musikverein concert life.

1972

The general secretary of the Gesellschaft, Rudolf Gamsjäger, becomes director of the Vienna State Opera. His successor at the Musikverein is Albert Moser, , formerly the director of the Musikverein for Styria in Graz and most recently the director of the Vienna Volksoper. The physician Univ.-Prof. Dr. Horst Haschek is voted in as president of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, replacing Alexander Hryntschak after 27 years in the role.

1973

The improvements to fire safety provisions at the Musikverein mark the beginning of a whole range of significant renovation and construction measures, intended by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde to make the building state-of-the-art.

1979

Gottfried von Einem
Dr. Otto Biba becomes director of the archive. Under his leadership, the archive develops its international reputation as a research centre and as a contributor to international exhibitions. The collection continues to expand steadily through both donations and purchases.

1984

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde decides to undertake the complete renovation of the Große Musikvereinssaal. These wide-ranging changes are intended to restore the Goldener Saal to its former brilliance, so that it might truly deserve the name. Significant sums of money are made available to achieve this goal. Vice president Dr. Dieter Kriegs-Au coordinates the work, which begins in 1986 and ends in 1987, in time for the 175th anniversary of the Gesellschaft.

1988

Dr. Thomas Angyan becomes director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. The programme range is extended significantly and opens up new artistic directions. Neue Musik receives consistent support through the commissioning of new works, while a close collaboration with Nikolaus Harnoncourt places early music at the heart of concert life at the Musikverein. Children’s and youth music projects are planned across the spectrum of events and integrated within the Musikverein’s programme. As a pioneer in this respect, the Musikverein develops an exemplary and wide-ranging programme for children from the age of three to young adults. The importance of the Musikverein as a centre of international musical life also finds reflection in orchestral residencies, of unparalleled quality worldwide in terms of form and frequency. Leading international orchestras make guest appearances with their chief conductors for several days at a time at the Musikverein.

1989

Herbert von Karajan conducts for the last time on the podium of the Großer Musikvereinssaal on 23 April with a Gesellschaft performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. Karajan, the last concert director of the Gesellschaft dies on 16 July.

1990

Six months before his death, Leonard Bernstein, an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, makes his last appearance at the Musikverein conducting Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.

The Verein der Freunde des Archivs (Society of Friends of the Archive) is established as a new branch society of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

1991

Johannes Prinz becomes the choir director of the Singverein. Under his leadership, the choir acquires a new artistic and stylistic direction following the death of Herbert von Karajan.

1993

The Brahms Saal undergoes thorough renovation to restore it to the original design by the Musikverein’s architect Theophil Hansen.

1995

Air conditioning is installed in the Musikverein building, following careful consideration of how this might affect the famed acoustic qualities of the Goldener Saal.

1996

The Kammersaal is renovated and renamed the Gottfried-von-Einem-Saal to commemorate the composer, who died in July.

1997

Nikolaus Harnoncourt hosts his own concert series at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. His Concentus Musicus concert series in the Großer Musikvereinssaal has to be doubled in response to its huge popularity.

2000

At the turn of the millennium, the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde decides to go ahead with an ambitious future project. The initially limited project – planning to build an underground rehearsal space – grows in scale, not least due to the support of key sponsors and the efforts of the society’s members. Thus in 2001, the decision is taken to construct the Four New Halls as multipurpose spaces for concerts and events.

The internationally renowned Austrian architect Wilhelm Holzbauer is commissioned to produce the design. Together with his partner Dieter Irresberger he develops a concept that translates the aesthetic design themes of the Goldener Saal into a modern language of form. The colour gold provides a common link between the Großer Musikvereinssaal and the largest of the Four New Halls, in which glass is used as the dominant element. Three other halls are built alongside theGlass Hall each of them characterised by other elements: the Metal, the Stone and the Wooden Saal.

Dr. Dietrich Karner succeeds Horst Haschek, who occupied the role for 28 years, as the new president of the Gesellschaft.

During the Festwochen concert programme, the sextet by Krzysztof Penderecki, a work commissioned by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, receives its premiere.

2002

Claudio Abbado, honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, ends his tenure as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic with concerts in the Musikverein.

2003

Under the title „Nun klingen sie wieder …“ the Musikverein brings historical instruments from its collections back into concert life. The series establishes itself as an annual event and documents a unique collection. No other concert-giving institution worldwide has a collection such as the one – including historical instruments – in the possession of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.

2004

With a formal opening ceremony, the Four New Halls admit their first visitors. The range of programmes on offer at the Musikverein is thus widened considerably. The Musikverein focuses on new themes in alternative music and concert forms, with children’s and youth projects and also concerts with young musicians – the latter strand being developed in close cooperation with Vienna’s music universities. The arts encounter one another in new forms and in this respect too, the Four New Halls establish a new venue for cultural experience in the Musikverein.

2008

The Singverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its own 150th anniversary with its very own concert series.

2010

Pierre Boulez, honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, celebrates his 85th birthday with a series of concerts at the Musikverein.

2011

The Großer Musikvereinssaal acquires a new organ. This prestigious commission is awarded to the organ building company Rieger in Vorarlberg, after close scrutiny by an international committee of experts.

Dr. Thomas Oliva is chosen as president of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.

2012

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates its 200th anniversary. A highlight of the many celebratory concerts and events is the new performance of the very oratorio with which the founding of the society was initiated: „Timotheus oder Die Gewalt der Musik“. Based on historical performance records from 1812, Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts this anniversary concert with the Concentus Musicus and the Singverein.

2014

The Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Four New Halls. Thomas Angyan reviews his 25 years at the helm of the Musikverein as director. The number of Musikverein concert series has increased since the start of his tenure from 16 to 60. With more than 800 events taking place each season, concert activities at the Musikverein have reached a new peak.

2015

Nikolaus Harnoncourt gives his last concerts at the Musikverein, conducting Beethoven’s 4th and 5th Symphonies. Harnoncourt dies in March 2016. The Gesellschaft honours him with a memorial concert in the Großer Musikvereinssaal.

2016

A new initiative called „Club20“ represents a further opportunity for young music lovers to enjoy performances at the Musikverein. For all concerts at the Musikverein, a special quota of tickets is reserved for young people under 30 years of age.

At the age of 92, Georges Prêtre, honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, conducts two more concerts with the Wiener Symphoniker at the Musikverein. These are the last concerts of his career – Prêtre dies in January 2017.

Dr. Johannes Stockert succeeds Thomas Oliva as the new president of the Gesellschaft.

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