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Effective September 1, 2003, six members of the Vienna Philharmonic, some of them having played with our orchestra for over forty years, entered into retirement.
Rudolf Degen was born in Vienna on October 18, 1937, where he attended primary and middle school in the public school system. In 1951, he transferred to the "Technologische Gewerbemuseum" (TGM), where he acquired his diploma in 1956. Immediately after this, he secured his first employment as a lighting technician with the ELIN AG and worked in that capacity from 1956 until 1962. After being awarded the professional title of Engineer in 1960, it looked as if he were on the straightest path toward settling into this occupation. However, shortly thereafter Rudolf Degen made a major change in his previously established direction and commenced upon a study of the guitar with Karl Scheit at what was then the Vienna Music Academy. In 1962 he resigned his position with the electrical firm and was admitted to the contrabass class of Otto Rühm (1906-1979), an outstanding pedagogue and long-time principal contrabassist with our orchestra.
Naturally, this was not Rudolf Degen's first encounter with music. He had studied piano since he was six years old, but the departure from his previously established course represented a major risk for the young technician. In hindsight this appears as a highly successful career move, yet an endeavor of such magnitude can be perhaps best explained as his answer to a higher calling. In any case, he did not have to wait long for confirmation of his choice. In 1967 he received an engagement with the Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper, and earned a Diploma with Distinction from the Academy in 1970. In 1971, after a auditioning successfully, he received a position as contrabassist with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. Since 1974 Professor Rudolf Degen, who also is a member of the Vienna Hadyn Orchestra, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and the "Capelle Academica", has been a member of the Vienna Philharmonic.
Dietfried Gürtler, who was born in Vienna on September 12, 1938, began his musical career studying piano at the age of eight with Frieda Litschauer-Krause at the Vienna Conservatory. In 1955, both he and his teacher changed to what was then the Vienna Music Academy, where he later received his diploma in 1963. Immediately after completing his high school education in 1956, he became principal cellist with the Jeunesse Musicale, and played with the Vienna Bach Society, the Vienna Baroque Ensemble, the Chamber Opera and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra as well. On December 1, 1960, he was engaged as principal cellist with the Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper and filled this position for over five years. In the fall of 1965, he won the audition at the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and as of April 1, 1966, changed his place of business to the "House on the Ring". One year later he advanced to section leader, and was awarded membership in the Vienna Philharmonic Association on September 1, 1969.
In addition to his many-faceted orchestral duties, Dietfried Gürtler, who was awarded the professional title of Professor in 1992, has received the Austrian Cross of Honor of the Arts and Sciences and the Golden Medal for Service to the Province of Salzburg. He has also achieved much in the chamber music field, through his membership in the Seifert Quartet and through the Gürtler Trio, an ensemble consisting of himself, his wife Hedda, first violinist at the Vienna Volksoper, and his brother Wolfgang, since 1977 contrabassist with the Vienna Philharmonic.
On September 1, 2003, along with Professor Dietfried Gürtler, another member of the Seifert-Quartet also entered into retirement. Edward Kudlak, who was also a co-founder of the Seifert Quartet, was born in Montreal on May 25, 1936, and joined the Vienna Philharmonic in 1973, after already having enjoyed a well-rounded musical career. After completion of his education at McGill University in Montreal, where at the age of 15 years he had become concert master of the university symphony orchestra, and where he had performed numerous times as guest soloist with the Montreal Symphony, he came to Vienna to continue his violin study under Ricardo Odnoposoff, one of our past concert masters. At this time he played first violin with the Viennese Baroque Ensemble, was engaged with the Philharmonia Hungarica, and was performing with various chamber music ensembles as well.
Edward Kudlak returned to Canada in 1959, accepting an engagement with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and a position teaching violin and viola at McGill University and at the Conservatoire de la Musique in Quebéc. Some thirteen years later he returned to Vienna and won an audition as violist with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, receiving his membership in the Vienna Philharmonic Association three years later. In addition to his participation in the afore-mentioned Seifert Quartet, Kudlak, who has been awarded the professional title of Professor and numerous other awards, served on the administrative committee of the Vienna Philharmonic from 1991-1998, in the capacity of Committee Member without Portfolio.
Meinhart Niedermayr was born in Vienna on August 20, 1941 and was predestined to follow in the footsteps of his father, Josef Niedermayr (1900-1962), who, since 1921, had been the first flutist with the Vienna Philharmonic. It was only natural that when young Meinhart entered grade school, his father gave him his first lessons in flute and piano. In 1956, he was accepted into the Vienna Music Academy, joining the class of Hans Reznicek (1910-1979), a long-time principal flutist with our orchestra. At the age of 16 Niedermayr was already active as a substitute for the State Opera Orchestra and in 1961 he received his diploma with honors. In this same year he crowned an already successful career by winning the flute audition for entrance into the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and officially began his duties there on September 1, 1961. He was admitted to the Vienna Philharmonic Association a little over a year later, in November of 1962, and in a short time advanced to the position of principal flute.
In this capacity, Meinhard Niedermayr performed all of the great orchestra parts for flute in the operatic and symphonic literature, and shortly before the end of his long career, he appeared as soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic in the subscription concert series. On April 6/7, 2002, with Lorin Maazel conducting, he performed the Suite Nr. 2 in D minor, BWV 1067, by Johann Sebastian Bach, repeating this appearance on the subsequent tour to Aalborg, Paris, London and Cardiff. Niedermayr has received many awards and honors, as well as the professional title of Professor, and has been a member of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle since 1970. Since 1989 he has taught at the Conservatory of the City of Vienna, in addition to making numerous appearances as soloist and chamber musician. He is also the initiator of the Baden (Lower Austria) Master Course for Flute.
Klaus Peisteiner, born on December 12, 1935 in Kirchschlag (Lower Austria), received a comprehensive musical education by studying violin, piano, and organ. After his graduation from high school, he began a double major at the Vienna Music Academy, being accepted into the class of Franz Samohyl (1912-1999) in 1955, and at the same time also registering to study music education. After passing the State Proficiency Examination with distinction in 1958, he concentrated on viola, which he studied with Franz Samohyl until 1961. In 1960, he became principal violist with the Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra, moving in 1962 to the Vienna Symphony, where he was also engaged in the capacity of principal violist. After a successful audition, he joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on January 1, 1964 and on September 1, 1966, was awarded membership in the Vienna Philharmonic Association, after already having been promoted to the position of viola section leader.
At approximately the same time he joined the Philharmonic, Peisteiner started an additional career as founder and eventual long-time member of the Vienna String Quartet, which, besides numerous concerts for the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna, made many tours both in Europe and overseas, particularly in Japan. Among this ensemble's recordings, one of the most outstanding is the complete cycle of Franz Schubert's String Quartets, which served to win the quartet several prizes. Klaus Peisteiner, who has been a member of the Vienna Hofmusikkapelle since 1990, has also been awarded the professional title of Professor and has received many honors on both the provincial and national level.
Franz Zamazal, who was born in Vienna on July 18, 1939, began his musical education at the conservatory in the city of his birth, studying piano with Roland Raupenstrauch and percussion with Karl Bock. Graduating with honors in 1959, he began working with numerous orchestras as a substitute: the Vienna Symphony, the Lower Austrian Tonkünstler Orchestra, the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper, the Burg Theater, etc. For many years he was also a member of Freidrich Cerha's ensemble "die reihe". In addition to all this musical activity, he augmented his musical studies at the Vienna Music Academy from 1965 through 1969, studying composition with Friedrich Neumann and percussion with the Philharmonic timpanist Richard Hochrainer (1904-1986). In 1967, Zamazal received an engagement as Stage Musician with the Austrian State Theaters, and on September 1, 1970 he entered the State Opera Orchestra, with his Vienna Philharmonic membership following 3 years later.
In later years, Franz Zamazal worked intensively on the administrative committee of our orchestra. From 1976-1981 he served as Ticket Manager, and from 1987 onwards he has organized the Vienna Philharmonic Ball, creating and maintaining the very special atmosphere that this particular event affords. His compassionate dedication to his work has brought him the professional title of Professor and noteworthy honors from the Republic of Austria and the Province of Salzburg. He was honored in an exceptional manner at the general meeting of the orchestra on June 11, 2002. By special request of the orchestra, even though his retirement from the orchestra was pending, he was chosen to continue in his capacity as Director of the Philharmonic Ball for the next 3 years.