Vienna Tonkunstler

11-14 March 2025

Conductor: Yutaka Sado
Soloist: Yeol Eum Son (piano)


With its residencies at the Musikverein Wien, Festspielhaus St. Pölten and in Grafenegg, the Tonkunstler Orchestra is one of Austria’s biggest and most important musical ambassadors. The focus of the orchestra’s artistic work is the traditional orchestral repertoire, ranging from the Classical to the Romantic periods through to the 20th century. Yutaka Sado, one of the most important Japanese conductors of our time, has been the orchestra’s Music Director since the 2015–16 season. He will be succeeded by Fabien Gabel in summer 2025. The Frenchman was the Chief Conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec in Canada until 2021 and was presented to the public at a press conference in June 2023 in Vienna.

The Tonkunstler’s unique approach to programming is appreciated by musicians, audiences and press alike. The inclusion of genres such as jazz and world music as part of the «Plugged-In» series, which has entered its eleventh year, keeps the orchestra in touch with the pulse of modern life. Performances of works by contemporary composers make the Tonkunstler a key player on the current music scene. Each year, a composer in residence collaborates with the orchestra for the Grafenegg Festival. So far, these have included Brett Dean, HK Gruber, Krzysztof Penderecki, Jörg Widmann, Peter Ruzicka, Toshio Hosokawa und Georg Friedrich Haas. Composers including Arvo Pärt, Kurt Schwertsik, Friedrich Cerha and Bernd Richard Deutsch have written commissioned works for the orchestra.

The Tonkunstler are the only Austrian symphony orchestra to boast three residencies. Their traditional Sunday Afternoon concerts at the Wiener Musikverein go back almost 75 years and remain their most successful concert cycle to date. The Festspielhaus St. Pölten was officially opened by the Tonkunstler Orchestra on 1 March 1997. Since then, as resident orchestra, its opera, dance and educational projects, as well as an extensive range of concerts, have formed an integral part of the overall cultural repertoire in the Lower Austrian state capital.

In Grafenegg, the Tonkunstler have two acoustically outstanding venues at their disposal in their capacity as orchestra in residence: the Auditorium and Wolkenturm. The latter was officially opened by the orchestra. Each year, the Midsummer Night’s Gala – broadcast on radio and TV in Austria as well as in several other European countries – opens the summer season in Grafenegg.

The political and social events and upheavals of the 20th century have left their mark on the orchestra’s history. The first concert by the Wiener Tonkünstler-Orchester took place in the Wiener Musikverein in October 1907, with 83 musicians performing. The impressive trio of conductors that night were Oskar Nedbal, a student of Dvořák, Bernhard Stavenhagen, a student of Franz Liszt, and Hans Pfitzner. The Tonkunstler gave the first performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s «Gurre-Lieder» under the direction of Franz Schreker in 1913. Wilhelm Furtwängler was Principal Conductor of the orchestra from 1919 to 1923. Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch and Hermann Abendroth conducted the Tonkunstler in the years that followed.

The Tonkunstler have been the state symphony orchestra of Lower Austria since 1945. Year after year they have fulfilled the cultural, artistic and educational mandate this entails through their extensive range of concerts at various locations across the region, including the New Year’s concert series, through music education projects and their commitment to contemporary music in Lower Austria. In 2003, the Tonkunstler were the first Austrian orchestra to establish a department for music education. The «Tonspiele» («Sound Games») are one of the most extensive music education programmes in Austria. With its many activities for adults, including introductions to each symphonic concert programme, rehearsal visits, presented concert formats and the participative choir project «Seid umschlungen, Millionen»,  the orchestra’s educational work is richly varied.

The Tonkunstler Orchestra as we know it today developed from the Landessymphonieorchester Niederösterreich (State Symphony Orchestra of Lower Austria) in the mid-20th century. Its former Music Directors include such important figures of the music world as Walter Weller, Heinz Wallberg, Miltiades Caridis, Fabio Luisi. Kristjan Järvi and Andrés Orozco-Estrada. The orchestra’s guest conductors are another important source of artistic stimulus. In recent years, the Tonkunstler have welcomed many great conductors to their concerts, including Kent Nagano, Julia Jones, Michail Jurowski, Tomáš Netopil, Andrej Boreyko, Jakob Hruša, Gilbert Varga, Simone Young, Michal Nesterowicz, Ivor Bolton and Robert Trevino. Globally recognised orchestra directors including Hugh Wolff, Krzysztof Urbański, Michael Schønwandt, Jun Märkl, Dmitrij Kitajenko and John Storgårds have repeatedly worked with the Tonkunstler, some of them over many years.

Among the star soloists who have collaborated with the orchestra are Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Elisabeth Kulman, Lisa Batiashvili, Sol Gabetta, Alban Gerhardt and Cameron Carpenter. The pianists Rudolf Buchbinder, Fazıl Say, Lars Vogt, Kit Armstrong and Lang Lang, the violin virtuosos Alina Pogostkina, Christian Tetzlaff, Augustin Hadelich, Daishin Kashimoto, Arabella Steinbacher and Julia Fischer as well the oboist Albrecht Mayer and the clarinettist Sabine Meyer have also performed with the Tonkunstler.

Recent tours have taken the Tonkunstler to Germany, Britain, Spain, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Taiwan and the Baltic states. After the first major Japan tour with Yutaka Sado in early 2016, the orchestra and its Music Director 2018 returned there for three weeks, giving no fewer than 14 concerts in the country’s most prestigious concert halls. In 2019 the Tonkunstler made a tour of Germany, performing in venues including the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

The orchestra’s versatile artistic profile is reflected in a wide range of CD recordings. Founded in 2016, the Tonkunstler’s own label releases up to four CDs per year. These include both live recordings, mostly from the Wiener Musikverein, and independent studio productions under the baton of Music Director Yutaka Sado as well as with guest conductors. The Tonkunstler’s discography with their former Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada includes the complete recording of the symphonies of Johannes Brahms. Also available are Franz Schmidt’s «The Book with Seven Seals» and «Zeitstimmung»/«Rough Music» by HK Gruber, and many other recordings.

The orchestra is a regular radio fixture with the programme «Tonkünstler» broadcast on the fourth Friday evening of every month on ORF Radio Niederösterreich. It offers a preview of the Tonkunstler’s upcoming musical highlights and information on their current projects. The book «Die Tonkünstler. Orchester-Geschichten aus Wien und Niederösterreich» («The Tonkunstler: Orchestral Stories from Vienna and Lower Austria») was published in 2007 to mark the Wiener Tonkünstler-Orchester’s 100th anniversary. Contributions from Otto Biba, Ernst Kobau, Philipp Stein, Markus Hennerfeind, Wilhelm Sinkovicz, Walter Weidringer and editor Rainer Lepuschitz shed light on aspects of Austrian orchestral history that had previously been undocumented or little known.

Apollo 13 in Concert poster

Yutaka Sado, conductor

Born in Kyoto, Music Director of the Tonkunstler Orchestra since the start of the 2015–16 season, Yutaka Sado is considered one of the most important Japanese conductors of our time.

After many years assisting Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, Yutaka Sado started winning important conducting prizes such as the Grand Prix of the 39th «Concours international des jeunes chefs d’orchestre» in 1989 in Besançon, France, and the Grand Prix of the Leonard Bernstein Jerusalem International Music Competition in 1995. His close ties with his mentor led to his appointment as Conductor in Residence at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, which was founded by Bernstein. In December 1990, at the «Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert» in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, Yutaka Sado conducted alongside other Bernstein protégés.

From 2023 the Tonkunstler Music Director will also serve as Music Director of the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and, since 2022, he is the Artistic Consultant for the same orchestra, which was founded by Seiji Ozawa, among others. Since 2005, Yutaka Sado has been Artistic Director of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center (PAC) and of the PAC Orchestra. This concert hall and theatre has become one of Japan’s leading artistic venues with some 60,000 subscribers annually. Yutaka Sado’s fame in Japan is enormous, thanks in no small part to a weekly TV programme that he presented from 2008 to 2015 in which he brought the world of classical music closer to Japanese music enthusiasts. For almost 20 years he has been directing the annual performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring 10,000 choral singers, that is held in a stadium in Osaka. Known as «Daiku» (in English: «the Ninth»), the event is held under the aegis of the Mainichi Broadcasting System (MBS), a major Japanese radio and TV network, and is hugely popular in Japan. Yutaka Sado leads regular tours with his Super Kids Orchestra, founded in 2003 in Hyogo to support the most talented primary- and middle-school pupils from all over Japan as part of an exemplary music education programme. Since 2003 he has also been principal conductor of the Siena Wind Orchestra, one of the few professional ensembles of its kind in the world, founded in 1990 and highly popular in Japan.

Yutaka Sado’s career outside Japan started in France, where he was principal conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris between 1993 and 2010. Over his career so far, Yutaka Sado has stood in front of many outstanding European orchestras. He has guested with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Bayerisches Staatsorchester in Munich and the symphony orchestras of the BR, NDR, SWR and WDR broadcasters in Germany. Yutaka Sado has conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatskapelle Weimar, the Dresden and Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestras, the Bamberg Symphony, Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. He has also stood in front of the Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, the London Symphony and the London Philharmonic Orchestras, the BBC Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Orchestre National de France.

In Italy he has conducted the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia Rom, the RAI Torino, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Yutaka Sado’s US debut was with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington in 2018.

As part of his extensive concert obligations with the Tonkunstler Orchestra, tours have taken them together to Japan, Britain and, most recently, Germany, with an itinerary including performances in the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Kulturpalast Dresden and the Philharmonie Essen.

Yutaka Sado’s many-facetted musical achievements have been documented in more than 50 CD recordings. The Tonkunstler Orchestra’s own label, established in 2016, releases up to four CDs per year as in-house studio productions and live recordings from the Wiener Musikverein. They include «Ein Heldenleben» and the «Rosenkavalier» suite by Richard Strauss, Joseph Haydn’s «The Day Trilogy» and his oratorio «The Creation», Anton Bruckner’s Fourth, Eighth and Ninth Symphonies, Gustav Mahler´s Second and Fifth Symphonies and orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein.

Apollo 13 in Concert poster

Yeol Eum Son, piano

Poetic elegance, an innate feeling for expressive nuance and the power to project bold, dramatic contrasts are among the arresting attributes of Yeol Eum Son’s pianism. Her refined artistry rises from breathtaking technical control and a profound empathy for the emotional temper of the works within her strikingly wide repertoire. She is driven above all by her natural curiosity to explore a multitude of musical genres and styles and the desire to reveal what she describes as the “pure essence” of everything she performs. Yeol Eum refuses to impose limits on her artistic freedom and remains determined to explore new artistic territory. Her choice of repertoire, which spans everything from the works of Bach and Mozart to those of Shchedrin and Kapustin, is guided chiefly by the quality and depth of the music.

In high demand as recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician, Yeol Eum has won critical plaudits for the profound insights and intelligence of her interpretations. Her development as an all-round artist has gained from collaborations with conductors as diverse as Lorin Maazel, Dmitri Kitajenko, Valery Gergiev, Antonio Pappano, Andrew Manze, Jaime Martin, Jun Märkl, Roberto González-Monjas, Jonathon Heyward, Ryan Bancroft, Pablo Gonzalez, Pietari Inkinen, Eivind Aadland, Joana Carneiro,  Anja Bihlmaier, Dima Slobodeniouk, Gergely Madaras, Alexander Shelley and Omer Meir Welber.

During 22/23 season Yeol Eum served as an Artist-in-Residence with the Residentie Orkest in the Hague with performances of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.25, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm, Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 and Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.  Further season highlights in 2022-23 included a succession of debut performances with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2), the NDR Radiophilharmonie (Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4 and Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1), the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias (Szymanowski Symphony No.4), Musikkollegium Winterthur (Ravel Piano Concerto in G major), the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Mozart Piano Concerto No.27), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (Beethoven Piano Concerto No.2 and Mozart Piano Concerto No.23),  the Sydney Symphony (Mozart Piano Concerto No.20), Melbourne Symphony (Ravel Piano Concerto in G major) ,

Tasmanian Symphony (Chopin Piano Concerto No.2) and Auckland Philharmonia (Chopin Piano Concerto No.2). Yeol Eum closed the season with her debuts at the Edinburgh International Festival, Rosendal Chamber Music Festival and return visit at the Helsingborg Piano Festival.

Across 23/24 season, Yeol Eum collaborates ones again with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern at home in Germany and on tour in South Korea (Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3), Tasmanian Symphony (Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3) and Auckland Philharmonia (Mozart Piano Concerto No.24). Yeol Eum makes debuts with the Oslo Philharmonic

Orchestra (Chopin Piano Concerto No.2), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Britten Piano Concerto), Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (Mozart Piano Concerto No.20), NAC Orchestra (Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2), West Australian Symphony Orchestra (Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3) and Tenerife Symphony (Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3). She also returns to the Melbourne Recital Centre and Adelaide International Piano Series, and makes recital debuts at the Singapore International Piano Festival, Risør Chamber Music Festival, International Piano Festival of Oeiras, and Mänttä Music Festival.

The international reach of her past seasons’ work is clearly reflected in collaborations with, among others, the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin, the Gürzenich, Dresden Philharmonic and Tonkünstler Orchestras, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orchestre national d’Île-de-France, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic at the 2019 BBC Proms, BBC Scottish, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Budapest Festival, Helsinki, and Bergen Philharmonic, Basel Symphony, Castilla y León Symphony and Spanish Radio and Television Symphony orchestras, Singapore Symphony, San Diego and Detroit Symphony and the Mariinsky Orchestra.

Yeol Eum Son, born in Wonju, South Korea in 1986, received her first piano lessons at the age of threeand-a-half. She was among the prize winners at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in 1997 and won the Oberlin International Piano Competition two years later. Yeol Eum studied at Korea National University of Arts and continued her training with Professor Arie Vardi at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover.

Yeol Eum attracted international attention when she secured second prize and the Best Chamber Music Performance at the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition. She underlined her position among the most gifted artists of her generation at the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition, where she won the Silver Medal and received the coveted competition’s prizes for Best Chamber Concerto Performance and Best Performance of the Commissioned Work.

Over the past decade Yeol Eum has achieved global acclaim not least for her interpretations of Mozart’s piano concertos. In 2016 she joined the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Sir Neville Marriner in what proved to be the conductor’s final recording, setting down a radiant interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 for Onyx Classics. She made her London debut at Cadogan Hall with the same work and orchestra in 2018 and enchanted the audience at the Royal Albert Hall the following year with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.15 for her debut at the BBC Proms. The YouTube video of her performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 at the International Tchaikovsky Competition has been viewed almost 23 million times, thought to be a record figure for any live Mozart work on the platform.

In addition to her all-Mozart album for Onyx (2018) most recently Yeol Eum released her debut on Naïve in March 2023 with a stunning boxset of Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas, the album earned early acclaim from the international classical press, including being named Classic FM’s Album of the Week. Yeol Eum’s discography also includes Modern Times, an album of works by Berg, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Ravel (Decca, 2016), a recording of Schumann’s Fantasy in C, Kreisleriana and Arabesque (Onyx, 2020) and a disc devoted to Nikolai Kapustin’s Eight Concert Etudes, Piano Sonata No.2 and other representative compositions (Onyx, 2021).

Apollo 13 in Concert poster



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