Vienna Philharmonic founds two-year Academy

Vienna Philharmonic founds two-year Academy


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2018

The orchestra has announced a plan to train young musicians in its particular style.

Watch video here.



  • Rogerio says:

    Young people have a great learning opportunity and the orchestra has a permanent pool of substitute musicians at the cost of a “stipendium” below the Austrian minimum wage.
    What´s not to like?

    • Kottan Ermittelt says:

      But imagine being in the academy and having to admit to your friends that you only have a tiny stipend.

      • Max Grimm says:

        A tax free €1.000 monthly stipend, €200 monthly housing assistance, €365 yearly assistance for public transport and standard guest-rate remuneration for any and all participation in rehearsals, concerts and tours (with standard per diem) is nothing to be ashamed about.

  • Caravaggio says:

    And do they have much to learn! It is one of the tragedies of globalisation that so much everywhere is getting diluted into homogeneity. And the Vienna is no exception. It has been a long long while since they last sounded like themselves. And when they try now they sound like a parody of their former selves. Very disconcerting. Will they ever return to their heyday? I doubt it. Consolation from 1947:

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    This, of course, is not a new concept. The Berlin Philharmonic has had an orchestral academy for many years, and a significant number of the present members of the orchestra studied there. The earliest among them are now approaching retirement. I believe several other German orchestras also have academies.

  • Paul says:

    Nice to see that you are using that photo again, however, if you refer back to the original story, you will see that it is in fact a photo of the Niederösterreich Tonkünstler-Orchester in the Musikverein, and not the Vienna Philharmonic.

  • Kuess die Hond says:

    12 students for 2 years, that shouldn’t put much of a burden on the Austrian taxpayer. But one-on-one teaching like the flutes in the video? That could go pear-shaped quite quickly.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Those 12 students for 2 years really aren’t the Austrian taxpayer’s burden. As most orchestra academies here, they are funded and paid for by larger sponsors and private donations.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Yes and no. While the academy was officially founded this past summer, it has only really existed on paper.
      Over the past few days the Wiener Philharmoniker have started the publicity campaign for the academy and applications for the very first class won’t even be accessible until January 2019 (the first academy session is set to run from 1. September 2019 to 30. June 2021).

  • Axl says:

    Finally! Many times I’ve thinked that why Viennese don’t have an own academy, when Concertgebouw, Berlin Phil and many other German orchestras has own orchestral academies

  • The NYT has also reported about the new Academy being established by the Vienna Philharmonic. I find some of the language in the NYT article troubling. (My apologies for this belated comment. Holiday distractions.) The NYT article is here:

    The two year “Academy” will admit 12 students. It’s a good idea, especially since historical comparisons of recordings show concretely that the orchestra has already lost much of its historic style.

    Unfortunately, there are a few comments in the article where the orchestra unintentionally describes the Academy’s goals with language reminiscent of Austrian far-right parties. If the historical, social and political context in Austria and the world at large were not so troubled by the rise of ethno-nationalism, the language would not be so problematic. Here are a few examples:

    “Mr. Welser-Möst likened the orchestra’s musical language to a dialect that must be preserved in an age of internationalization.” He adds, “It is about having everyone speak the same language.” Unfortunately, far-right parties in Austria and beyond (like the USA) often polemicize about foreigners damaging the purity of language and culture. It thus seems that less sweeping words and analogies could be found to describe preserving the orchestra’s style.

    Michael Bladerer, the Academy’s director, says: “’Very often people are good technically, but we don’t always find what we are looking for.” He says there is a desire to hear what he called “character.” Here too the language is too broad. Well beyond Austria one often hears the stereotypical view that Asians (a group the orchestra is alleged to exculde) are technically accomplished but lack some sort of special character that fits with Western musical sensibilities. And of course, it is discomforting that the far-right constantly polemizes about how foreigners do not fit into national identities because they have different “characters.” Trump has made similar language about “character” a regular part of his xenophobic diatribes. Again, we see that more careful language is needed.

    Mr. Bladerer continues: “One has to have seen, felt and smelled it to understand how old this culture is. You can’t just read about it or look at a picture.” Though I’m sure it was not Mr. Bladerer’s intention, language like this has similarities to the Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil) ideologies of the Third Reich. Culture was to spring straight from the earth in some mysterious manner, something transmitted exactly by its sights, feel, and smells. This was even extended to conceptions of genetic transmission. Would the Philadelphia Orchestra say that one has to see, feel, and smell Philadelphia to fit with the orchestra’s unique sound? Most musicians feel that musical style is learned through careful musical training. Again, more careful language is needed, and especially language that does not awaken troubling current and historical allusions to mysteriously inherent cultural attributes.

    Daniel Froschauer, the Chairman of the orchestra adds: “The way we play must be experienced. There is a collective memory that we pass on without knowing it. This is an opportunity for young people from around the world to come and take part.’” It will be interesting to see if any Asians are included among the 12 people from “around the world” since the Vienna Phil is alleged to exclude them from the orchestra, but here too the language is troubling. The Nazis spoke of culture as being transmitted by an unconscious collective memory they called “Ahnenerbe,” something passed on “without knowing it”–perhaps even genetically. As the world knows, not everyone in Austria was thought to share this unconscious “collective memory,” so efforts were made, including genocide, to preserve the cultural purity it presumably created. It reminds us why we must approach conceptions of inherent, unconscious culture with care since such ideas can fairly easily lead to xenophobia, ethno-nationalism, and racism. With so much right wing nationalism arising around the world, this has never been more important.