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Since 1989, Carnegie Hall has held a "Vienna Philharmonic Week in New York", which usually occurs around the end of February and beginning of March. Previously there have been two exceptions. In 1999/2000 and 2010/11 the Philharmonic was invited for the opening of the season, which extended the "Vienna Philharmonic Week" from three to four concerts, and necessitated the performance of these concerts in the fall. Thus, this year's usual New York dates could therefore be utilized for guest appearances on the West Coast of the United States, where our appearances have been, in recent years, sporadic.
The tour with Semyon Bychkov was preceded by an intensive rehearsal phase, as well as four concerts in Vienna, at which time the three tour programs were performed. On February 16th, 2011, for a concert of the Society of Friends of Music, Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, D 125, Richard Wagner's Prelude and "Liebestod" to "Tristan und Isolde", and the suite from the ballet "The Miraculous Mandarin", op. 19, by Béla Bartók were performed. At the 4th Subscription Concert on February 19th/20th Gustav Mahler's 6th Symphony in A minor was the only work on the program and, for the 6th Soirée on February 21st, Robert Schumann's Symphony No. 2 in C major, op. 61 as well as the 2nd Symphony in D major, op. 73, by Johannes Brahms were heard.
The tour itself began on February 22nd, with a concert in the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne. Semyon Bychkov, from 1997 until 2010 the principal conductor of the West German Radio Symphony in Cologne, conducted Mahler's 6th Symphony. A residency consisting of three concerts in Berkeley (California) took place to begin the US tour. On in Zellerbach Hall on the campus of the University of California, all three of the concerts played previously in Vienna (supplemented with the Slavic Dance in E minor, op. 72/2 by Antonín Dvořák as well as the Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 5 by Johannes Brahms as encores) were performed between February 25th and 27th. This was the first appearance of our orchestra in the Bay Area for 24 years and was enthusiastically received by the audience and press. (A headline in the San Francisco Classical Voice read: "The Vienna Philharmonic came, saw and conquered.") The character of an orchestral residency was underscored with master classes given by Reiner Honeck and Dietmar Küblböck, a chamber music concert featuring Volkhard Steude, Holger Groh, Michael Strasser, Wolfgang Härtel and Matthias Schorn (with Dvořák's "American" String Quartet and Mozart's Clarinet Quintet) and lectures by Dr. Clemens Hellsberg.
Concerts in Santa Barbara and Palm Desert on March 1st and 2nd, which featured the Schubert, Wagner and Bartok program, were followed by the orchestra's third guest appearance, after 1997 and 2002 in Costa Mesa, at which time Mahler's 6th Symphony was performed. One day later, in the Civic Theatre of San Diego, which has an audience capacity of 3,000 seats, the 2nd Symphonies of both Schumann and Brahms concluded our concerts on the West Coast. The final concert of the tour took place far away from California, in Toronto, Canada, where on March 6th, Semyon Bychkov once again conducted the program previously presented at the concert of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna. The close personal association between the conductor and the orchestra, characterized by a mutual musical understanding throughout the entire three week working phase, was exemplified by Semyon Bychkov in a special manner: in Toronto on March 5th, he invited the entire orchestra for dinner.
During the trip, there were reunions with two former U.S. Ambassadors to Austria. Kathryn Hall, who served from 1997 through 2001, invited the entire orchestra on February 23rd to visit her winery in Napa Valley, and Susan McCaw, who was ambassador from 2006 to 2007, gave the Philharmonic a reception at her home in Santa Barbara.