Vienna Philharmonic: ‘It’s not all about profit’

Vienna Philharmonic: ‘It’s not all about profit’


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2014

The new player-managers of the orchestra, Andreas Großbauer and Harald Krumpöck, have gone on a hometown media offensive ahead of the upcoming New Year’s extravaganza. The pair present themselves as a new generation of leadership, dedicated to openness about the past and equality in the future.

Sample quote:  Social change occurs naturally, even with us. Today, we are much more international than a couple of years ago. And the fact that women play in our orchestra shows that social norms have reached us. Even though it took longer to arrive than anywhere else.

Krumpöck: Gesellschaftliche Veränderungen passieren natürlich auch bei uns. Wir sind heute viel internationaler als noch vor ein paar Jahren. Und dass nun Frauen bei uns im Orchester mitspielen, zeigt, dass die gesellschaftliche Normalität bei uns angekommen ist. Auch wenn es länger gedauert hat als anderswo.

Read full interview here.


krumpock grossbauer

photo: Regine Hendrich/Der Standard


  • Hilary says:

    Maybe they can commission a waltz or polka from a living composer for the New Year extravaganza. I like the idea of something a bit anarchic amidst the celebrations so please stay clear from the mainstream composers like Lindberg and Adams et al

    • Jorge Grundman says:


    • philip says:

      That’s a very interesting idea. Keeping it Viennese how about a commission from either H K Gruber or Kurt Schwertsik? The danger is in creating a send up of the genre which isn’t what’s wanted. Are there any Viennese composers of light music from the city or has it completely died out?

  • Bviolinistic says:

    The appointing of Großbauer and Krumpöck by the orchestra as chairman and business manager respectively was an intelligent move. The two are old enough and experienced enough to do the job properly and professionally and also young enough to realise that the way of the future will have to incorporate the kind of change that many (especially on your blog, Mr Lebrecht) are waiting for. At the same time they both seem to want to retain the musical excellence of the orchestra at all costs; perhaps a win / win situation!

  • DCB says:

    Breathlessly awaiting William Osborne’s latest critique of the Vienna Phil.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Großbauer states that the VPO are going to spend the $1,000,000 Nilsson prize to modernize their archive and afford it appropriate premises.
    “Wir wollten mit dem Nilsson-Preis einen ganz klaren Schritt setzen: dass wir eine Million Dollar dazu verwenden, das Archiv zu modernisieren und ihm vor allem passende Räumlichkeiten zu geben.”

  • william osborne says:

    I think the outlook presented by these two gentlemen will define the future of the orchestra. At the same time, it is important to remember that the Philharmonic’s public relations efforts have often raised hopes that led to disappointment. Change in the Philharmonic has been a slow and difficult process.

    There is an unfortunate phrase in the interview, no doubt presented in naive innocence, that is bound to raise eyebrows and that ironically illustrates the cultural transformations within the orchestra that are taking place. In regard to the Philharmonic’s heavy performance schedule, Mr. Großbauer comments: „We are already pushed to our limits, and are wondering, for the sake of artistic hygiene, if it wouldn’t be better to reduce our activity a bit.”

    [„Wir sind da bereits an unseren Grenzen angelangt und denken darüber nach, ob es aus künstlerischer Hygiene nicht besser wäre, die Tätigkeit ein bisschen zurückzuschrauben.“]

    Given the troubling history of terms like “artistic hygiene,” Mr. Großbauer’s formulation is odd. Even innocent uses of the term “artistic hygiene” are a disservice to an orchestra that is trying to distance itself from its Nazi past and its ongoing problems with discrimination — though this observation will undoubtedly meet with howls of protest in the blinkered world of classical music.

    Concepts of cultural hygiene were a central part of Nazi racial polemic and their concepts of “cleansing” society through genocide. Similar formulations about hygiene were also used to support ideologies that the most authentic performance of western classical music can only be created by the ethnic group or nation of the composer. The Kampfbund der deutsche Kuenstler (Fighting Group for German Artists) often made such claims during the Third Reich:

    “Since we do not value, that a watered down internationalism is identified with German artistic genius, we must require, that in the future German art is represented abroad only by German artists, that carry in their person and their attitude of mind the seal of the purest Germaness.” (“Deutsches Operngastspiel in Suedamerika”, Deutsche Buehnenkorrespondenz, II/31, October 1933, pg. 4.)

    The ideology that a particular musical expression or style is inseparable from the central European soul, the People, or the Nation, eventually had catastrophic effects for central European culture. It manifested itself in the concepts of Ahnenerbe (the belief that culture is genetically inherited), and the Blut und Boden ideologies advocating the racial superiority of “The People” in the Third Reich. Given the Philharmonic’s worthy attempts to address its Nazi history, and its ongoing problems with discrimination, the term “artistic hygiene” thus seems an exceptionally poor choice of words.

    Sadly, these problems with chauvinism and ethnocentricity have not left us, which is why we still need to carefully consider the negative connotations of concepts of cultural hygiene. Germany is currently experiencing massive demonstrations organized by far-right groups to oppose the “Islamization of Europe.” As the Guardian notes, “Its leaders have been dismissed as ‘Nazis in pinstripes’ and the group’s rise has coincided with arson attacks on refugee hostels and the daubing of swastikas on city walls…” See:

    Holland, France, Italy, Sweden, and the USA have been experiencing similar problems.

    I truly believe the Philharmonic is making progress (even if belated,) but the term artistic hygiene could inadvertently reinforce xenophobia. It’s a disservice to the orchestra. It is laden with historical meanings that could ironically emphasize its slow acceptance of women and lack of Asians.

    (As is often the case, there will likely be a number of responders, mostly anonymous, seeking to defend the orchestra in ways that border on sexism and racism. Forgive me if I do not engage with them. The niveau is generally too low to even bother.)

    • John Borstlap says:

      There it is!

      After reading these shocking, and ENTIRELY unexpected revelations, I cancelled all hygienic measures in my home and on my estate, and forbade any such measures to my family and staff, ignoring the worried look on their faces. (The kitchen staff protested loudly and threatened to quit, but the promise of a salary rise in January restored peace.) This will create some problems, inevitably, and especially the stables will suffer, but ANY sacrifice for the sake of moral dignity is worth the cause.

      I also tried to convince my publisher to join-in, knowing their need for moral improvement, but they coolly refused, alas. Schott is no longer what it was.

    • Patrick Regnier says:

      To construct such an article out of one word , which clearly has no sinister intention whatsoever within the context it was used, is remarkable.
      More of incessant VPO bashing on this blog , as the New Year’s concert is approaching.
      The rampant current racism in the US ( where Mr. Osborne originates from ) : never worth a single line.
      And God forbid: ever hearing a single line of criticism about Israel’s cultural policies is utterly unthinkable, Mr. Lebrecht will of course see to that.

      But the VPO , one of the world’s best orchestras , needs to be constatntly attacked , so does the Berlin Philharmonic ,which never ever gets a single positive line in this blog.
      What a nuisance that these 2 orchcestras outshine any US,UK and Israeli band.
      A bit of cultural penis envy perhaps ?

  • william osborne says:

    There is probably a specific reason the Philharmonic is pounding the theme that “it’s not all about profit.” A new book has just been published about the Vienna Phil by Bernadette Mayrhofer and Fritz Trümpi entitled “Orchestrierte Vertreibung: Unerwünschte Wiener Philharmoniker. Verfolgung, Ermordung und Exil.“ (Orchestrated Expulsion: Unwished Members of the Vienna Philharmonic. Persecution, Murder, and Exile.)

    It is comprised of short biographies of the 29 musicians in the orchestra who were murdered or exiled during the Nazi regime. It notes that none of the exiles returned to the orchestra, and addresses the orchestra’s behavior after the war. This included harboring unrepentant Nazis, a fact that discouraged the exiles from returning. One of the main topics of the book concerns the efforts of the orchestra to cheat the exiles out of their pensions which were often denied or greatly reduced.

    Once the book becomes familiar to the international community, it will be another serious PR problem for the orchestra. It’s quite a bombshell, in my view. Much harsher than I was expecting. Perhaps at some point I’ll summarize the book and translate some key passages if no one gets to it any sooner.

    • william osborne says:

      And on the positive side, the book is a concrete example that the orchestra is truly opening up about its past.

  • Robin Worth says:

    It would be a shame if readers who do not know German do not pick up the point that the new team are entirely ready to allow access to all the NS period documents in the archives : the so-called “Nazi past”

    Maybe this will further illuminate how the 1938 Anschluss took many Austrian institutions (and many Austrian Jews) by surprise, which greatly helped NS supporters assert the dominance of their brutal Weltanschauung, to the detriment of the VPO and the rest of Austria