The Orchesterverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was founded in 1859 and is the oldest amateur orchestra in Vienna. It remains youthful, however, in terms of its activities: The Orchesterverein meets regularly at the Musikverein for rehearsals and produces three concert programmes per season, one of which is performed on the great stage of the Goldene Saal at the Vienna Musikverein.
The programme repertoire of the Orchesterverein ranges from Bach via the classical and romantic repertoire to commissioned works written by contemporary composers especially for the orchestra. Robert Zelzer has been its Artistic Director since 1994.
As with the Singverein, the Orchesterverein also remains true to the founding idea of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, as the society founded in 1812 was first and foremost an association of “dilettantes”. This referred – with no pejorative undertone – to those who practised musical arts not for professional reasons but for pleasure. These practising members performed at all of the society’s concerts until professional musicians took over the stage in the mid-19th century. In 1851 the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde decided that it would in future only allow its orchestral concerts to be performed by professional musicians. A new organisational form was sought for the instrumentalists among the active musicians in the society. This led to the creation of the Orchesterverein – along the same lines as the Singverein founded in 1858 – as a branch association of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.
The great esteem in which this amateur orchestra has been held ever since is evident in the number of musical collaborations that have taken place. Johannes Brahms worked with the orchestra as a conductor and pianist; so too did the violinist Arnold Rosé, the conductor Lovro von Matacic or in more recent times, Ernst Kovacic, Markus Schirmer and the Altenberg Trio. The Orchesterverein was and continues to be a regular partner for aspiring young musicians: these have included violinist Henryk Szeryng and pianists Alfred Brendel and Mitsuko Uchida.