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A Happy Symbiosis: The Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival

11 DEC 2017

published in: General

Author Clemens Hellsberg, Helga Rabl-Stadler, Peter Daniell Porsche (PDP Holding, owner Residenz Verlag), Author Robert Hoffmann, Friends’ President Heinrich Spängler Photo: SF/Neumayr/Leo
Clemens Hellsberg illuminates the complex relationships the Vienna Philharmonic has with Salzburg. This book launch signals the beginning of a series of publications leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival. The Residenz Verlag has been secured as an experienced partner for the project. Once again the “Society of Friends” has proved to a true group of friends in providing financial support for this ambitious project. Professor Robert Hoffmann was also thanked for contributing an introduction to the economic history of the subject. 

Helga Rabl-Stadler is convinced that: “Without the Vienna Philharmonic there might be a festival in Salzburg, but it would not be the Salzburg Festival. The Vienna Philharmonic are part of the identity of the Salzburg Festival. And in turn the Salzburg Festival is significant part of the identity of the Vienna Philharmonic. This orchestra has performed so often in Salzburg and is such an important part of our cultural life that it could be called the ‘Salzburg Philharmonic’.”

It is a pleasing coincidence that the year 1842 marks an important new beginning in the musical lives of both Vienna and Salzburg. By bringing together the court opera orchestra Otto Nicolai founded the world’s most famous symphony orchestra: the Vienna Philharmonic. In Salzburg active citizens dragged the small town that had sunk into irrelevance out of the morass of poverty with one act of cultural distinction: they came together to establish the Mozart memorial, thus commemorating their town’s greatest son, whose name many people connected only with Vienna. That this memorial was built on the foundations of a Roman building on which the claim could be read that “hic habitat felicitas” (luck resides here), proved to be a good omen.

As both a musician and a historian Clemens Hellsberg tells of the orchestra’s changing relationship with the Festival and how Salzburg became a second home to the Philharmonic: “Salzburg occupies a special place in the history of the Vienna Philharmonic: it was here that they first performed outside Vienna in 1877, in 1922 it was the Vienna Philharmonic that first brought opera productions to the festival and ever since 1925 the summer residency in Salzburg has been a fixed point in the orchestra’s annual calendar. 2200 opera performances and 800 concerts are not only historical testimony but also proof of a deep connection.” 

During the Second World War the orchestra demonstrated its commitment to Salzburg in a manner that has not been forgotten, preserving the continuity of their relationship in the festival-less year 1940 by performing a concert cycle in Salzburg at its own expense. The Vienna Philharmonic’s final appearance in the presence of the elderly Richard Strauss was particularly poignant. Following the dress rehearsal of The Love of Danae on 16th August 1944 Strauss bade farewell to the orchestra with the words: “Gentlemen, I hope we shall meet again in a better world.” Sadly this wish would not be fulfilled. As a result of the mobilization that followed the failed assassination of Hitler, the festival was cancelled. The world premiere of The Love of Danae only took place after the composer’s death at the 1952 Salzburg Festival.

Clemens Hellsberg became a member for the Vienna Philharmonic in 1980, serving as Chairman from 1997 to 2014. As the orchestra’s former archivist he has written numerous publications on topics from musical history. He has twice served on the committee to appoint the Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.

With kind regards
Salzburg Festival Press Office

Clemens Hellsberg 
Eine glückhafte Symbiose 
Die Wiener Philharmoniker und die Salzburger Festspiele 
(A Happy Symbiosis
The Vienna Philharmonic and the Salzburg Festival)
Published by the Salzburger Festspiele
240 pages with 16 pages of illustrations, German/English
170 × 230, Broschur
€ 24,–
ISBN 978 3 7017 3432 0 

For additional information please contact:
Heidi Selbach – Presse und Public Relations
Residenz Verlag – Vienna office
1010 Wien, Drachengasse 3/13
Telephone: +43 1 5121333-203