The press likes to see them as rivals for the position as the best orchestra in the world: the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berliner Philharmoniker. Yet the two orchestras share great mutual respect. This is reflected in the fact that, among other things, the Berlin orchestra regularly invites their Austrian counterparts to make guest appearances. The Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation first invited the Viennese orchestra in 2004. Under the baton of Riccardo Muti, they presented an Italian programme, with works by Giuseppe Verdi, Ferruccio Busoni and Ottorino Respighi. Not only the public, the press too was delighted with the orchestra: “They play with ravishing bravura. Instrumental brilliance is in evidence everywhere. The woodwinds and brass dazzle throughout,” wrote the Berliner Morgenpost.
Founded in 1842 by composer Otto Nicolai, the Vienna Philharmonic is exactly 40 years older than the Berliner Philharmoniker. One special feature of the ensemble is that only musicians of the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera can become members of the Vienna Philharmonic. Like the Berliners, the Viennese are also proud of their democratic self-government, and they also have their own, unmistakable sound, which has its roots in the First Viennese School. The orchestraʼs famous string sound is passed on from generation to generation. The special brass sound arises, however, not only from the playing technique, but also from specific characteristics of the instruments: Some of the woodwind instruments vary in scale, in the fingering system and in the type of reeds which are different to those used by other symphony orchestras. Last but not least, the legendary “Vienna Horns” contribute to the unique sound.
Unlike the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Vienna Philharmonic do not vote for a musical director, although they always work with great orchestral conductors. Evidence of this can be seen in the list of conductors who accompanied the orchestra on their visits to Berlin : Riccardo Muti (2004), Zubin Mehta (2005), Christian Thielemann (2007) and Lorin Maazel (2010). On 15 January 2013, the orchestra will appear with Georges Prêtre, who was the first Frenchman to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic New Yearʼs Concert in 2008. In addition to Beethovenʼs Seventh Symphony, the programme also includes Igor Stravinskyʼs Suite No. 2 from the ballet The Firebird and Maurice Ravelʼs Boléro.