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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

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The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is the best known orchestra in Austria and one of Europe's major ensembles. As its name suggests, it is based in Vienna. As well as giving concerts of its own, it is the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera[?].

The orchestra can trace its origins back to 1842, when Otto Nicolai[?] formed what he called a "Philharmonic Academy"; it was an orchestra which was fully independent, and which took all its decisions by a democratic vote of all its members. These are principles the orchestra still holds today.

When Nicolai left Vienna in 1847, the orchestra almost folded, and it was not very active until 1860, when Carl Eckert[?] joined as conductor. He gave a series of four subscription concerts, and since then, the orchestra has given concerts continuously.

The orchestra has attracted some very famous and acclaimed conductors. From 1875 to 1882 Hans Richter was principal conductor, and the orchestra gave the premieres of Johannes Brahms' second and third symphonies. Gustav Mahler held the post from 1898 to 1901, and under him the orchestra played abroad for the first time (in Paris). Subsequent conductors were Felix von Weingartner[?] (1908-27), Wilhelm Furtwängler (1927-30) and Clemens Krauss[?] (1930-33).

From 1933, the orchestra has had no one principal conductor, but instead has a number of guest conductors. These have included almost a great number of the world's best known conductors, including Richard Strauss, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti and Leonard Bernstein.

Since 1941, the orchestra has given a concert on each New Year's Day dedicated to the music of the Strauss family, and especially Johann Strauss II.

Although the orchestra is widely acknowledged as one of the world's finest, it has come in for some criticism because until recently it has not allowed women to play in it. Some people associated with the organization have also been criticised for saying that it is important to maintain the ethnic uniformity of the orchestra (that is, all white Europeans) in order to maintain high playing standards.

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