Playing in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the greatest symbols of success for a musician. With an eye on a rich tradition, the orchestra must also secure its role in the modern world of the 21st century. The Music program uncovers the efforts being made to nurture the institution’s next generation. In addition, the Euronews team visits the Vienna Philharmonic Academyand meet the ‘young generation’, the new faces of the orchestra who carry the tradition to the next generation, adding a touch of freshness.
They are young, ambitious and seek excellence. They come from far and wide to play at one of the most famous institutions in the world. What is it like to be a student of the prestigious Academy of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra?
“We all practice on our own for several hours a day, but we get to get together and create music together, which is really wonderful,” says young musician Lucas Stratmann.
“Without a doubt, it is something that has changed our lives. Playing with the Vienna Philharmonic and living this experience is simply indescribable for all of us,” says the musician, Theresia Prinz.
“I still remember very well the first rehearsal, in which I was about to cry, because I couldn’t believe the moment I was living,” adds Petra Liedauer, another of the young musicians at the academy.
The Vienna Philharmonic is committed to a new generation with its own academy, presenting an exclusive and versatile program. It accommodates a dozen students. They spend two years impregnating themselves with the traditions and style, when it comes to playing, of the orchestra.
“The most important thing is to play in the orchestra, because that is where things are transmitted. A colleague’s weekly classes are also, of course, very, very important. Chamber music is essential, when there is no conductor in front, because suddenly you realize when you have to take responsibility, when you can pass it on and when you have to listen to the other”, explains Michael Bladerer, founder of the Academy of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Lucas shares an essay with Benjamin Morrison, first violin of the Vienna Philharmonic.
“What are we going to work on today?” Benjamin asks Lucas after greeting each other.
“I have Schubert’s Rondo,” Lucas replies.
“Great! Fantastic! I think we started out a little softer at first, but we still wanted the sound to have substance. The first E,” Benjamin encourages the young musician.
“If you get a little closer to the bridge… as if you were having an ice cream. Like this!”, he indicates.
“I think we have a responsibility to be able to communicate to them what we learned in the past, not only playing with them in the orchestra, but also being able to give them advice and help them to be independent musicians, for themselves,” says Benjamin Morrison. , first violin of the Vienna Philharmonic.
“I’ve been able to learn a lot about the technical aspects of acting, and also about ‘imaginative thinking.’ It’s just that incredible depth of knowledge that we are able to receive in these lessons,” says Lucas Stratmann.
At the center of everything is: achieving excellence.
“That’s the most important thing. I already explained it in our first conversation. The important thing, for us, is excellence, which is right at the top. Of course, tradition is an essential value, and elegance plays an important role, but excellence is essential. In the end, everything that is done has to be at the highest level,” says Michael Bladerer, founder of the Academy of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Students get to play with the legendary Vienna Philharmonic, all over the world.
As the orchestra looks to the future and champions contemporary music, students have the unique opportunity to perform with Thomas Adès; recognized as one of the most outstanding composers and conductors of his generation.
“It’s the first time, and I find it very interesting. I liked his piece from the beginning. I was looking forward to working with him. Really, I’m very excited,” explains the musician Katharina Kratochwil.
“For me, as a young trumpeter, the most important thing was to play with the conductors, with the orchestra…because I think you really learn more when you play in the orchestra,” says musician Daniel Schinnerl-Schlaffer.
“It is always very exciting to have the pleasure of playing in a great orchestra like this for the first time, or one of the first times in your life. I feel that we will be able to see the younger musicians play for many years to come. So, it’s a wonderful feeling,” says composer Thomas Adès.
Lucas Stratmann, from New York, is part of an emerging generation with high hopes. But… becoming a professional musician is not the easiest job option.
“The world of classical music is very competitive, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. I had some doubts, probably around 14 or 15 years old. Will I be able to make a career out of this? Will I be able to act? What am I going to do with music? I mean I love music, and being here has reaffirmed me that I can have a career in music, which is an amazing feeling,” Stratmann said.
“So, not only has it been an enriching musical experience for me, but also, I have made incredible friends, who have made me grow and have inspired me a lot,” he adds.
“We work together during the day, and then we get together at night and hang out. Having this kind of support is really impressive,” says music student Robert Amadeo Sanders.
“We listen to each other practicing, and we spend time together. That’s always a lot of fun,” adds Theresia Prinz.
“We are all, more or less, the same age. I hope that we will be colleagues, or know each other, during the rest of our career. Of course, it is nice that we can establish such a beautiful friendship from the beginning”, indicates the also student of music Traian-Petroniu Sturza.
During their time at the academy, students not only have the opportunity to see legendary conductors on stage, but also to get to know them personally in ‘meet and greet’ sessions.
This time it is the world-renowned ‘master’ Christian Thielemann.
“What you can learn here is this wonderful homogeneity… That’s the hardest thing of all, for everyone to fit into it. Everyone has to assimilate it. Even a soloist has to be subservient, in a way. He can’t act like a solo musician of the type: Me, me!” declares Christian Thielemann.
“They are often very spontaneous, and since they don’t have experience… they have a very direct way of acting. I’m not like that anymore. I’m a little more seasoned, and that has been lost, in a way. So I think that’s where I see myself, on some occasions”, adds the conductor.
Sometimes students even participate in historical moments, such as the concert offered by the Vienna Philharmonic in 2021 in the emblematic Sagrada Familia.
“Actually, I had only been in Vienna for two weeks before going there. So that was my first project, an absolutely incredible experience,” explains Lucas Stratmann.
From one incredible experience to another. Lucas Stratmann and Katharina Kratochwil take in the atmosphere of Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace before one of the most impressive concerts of their young career. This is the ‘Summer Night Concert’, in which the orchestra shares its passion for music with its audience.
“Will it take place there?” Lucas asks.
“Yes, down there. All the people will sit there on the hill and watch,” Katharina replies.
“It’s amazing! I can’t wait to perform, I’ve only seen videos. It’s one of those things, like the New Year’s Concert, that you see and you’re like: wow! Actually, I’m going to be able to play. It’s one of those great experiences,” says Lucas.
“Unbelievable!” exclaims Katharina.
“That’s amazing!” Lucas agrees.
“My biggest dream would be to get a job in an orchestra, to be able to play the oboe in an orchestra. Of course, it would be very nice to do it with the Vienna Philharmonic,” says Katharina.
“Thanks to all the preparation I had with my teachers in the orchestra, somehow, I was able to prepare myself really well, and I got the position in the second violin section,” declares Lucas Stratmann.
“Playing in the Vienna Philharmonic is something I dreamed of. So once I got here and saw how much everyone who plays in the orchestra enjoys, how committed they are to showcasing music and art in such a beautiful way… all that reaffirmed my passion for music”, concludes the young student.