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The Vienna Philharmonic performed Arnold Schönberg's "Gurre-Lieder" on June 3/4, 2012, with Zubin Mehta conducting in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein. The performance of this work, a setting to music of a collection of poems by the Danish poet Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-1885) which received its world premiere in the Musikverein on February 23, 1913, represents an extreme challenge (due to its 450 performers) for every concert producer and was certainly a high point in this year's celebration of the bicentennial of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna. The artists taking part in this endeavour were Violeta Urmana, soprano (Tove); Daniela Denschlag, mezzo-soprano (Waldtaube); Nikolai Schukoff, tenor (Waldemar); Gerhard Siegel, tenor (Klaus Narr); Alexander Tsymbalyuk, bass (Bauer); Thomas Quasthoff, narrator; along with the Chorus of the Society of Friends of Music in Vienna (Director - Johannes Prinz) and the Concert Formation of the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Chamber Chorus (Director - Michael Grohotolsky).
The first performance of the "Gurre Lieder" by the Vienna Philharmonic took place on June 12/13, 1920, in the Vienna State Opera conducted by Arnold Schönberg. Since the producer of the cycle "Master Performances of Viennese Music" was unable to underwrite all of the expenses incurred, the orchestra settled for a fee for the rehearsals but waived payment for the concert. This gesture caused Schönberg to write an enthusiastic, personal thank you letter to the orchestra which stated the following: "I wish to express the most fervent feelings of gratitude and awe of your extraordinary performance, yet can offer you only that which is routine and standard, because for you to be showered with the highest of praise is nothing out of the ordinary. […] The selected, the Chosen of the Arts, like you gentlemen, make those of us who would like to be chosen ourselves, your voters. So let me write on my ballot: 'the Vienna Philharmonic'. But how much can it mean for you to have yet another ballot cast in your name? For me however, it brings much joy to pronounce the name 'Vienna Philharmonic' with the pride which is imparted by the knowledge that a portion of this renown and brilliance stands every German-Austrian in good stead."1
1 Historisches Archiv der Wiener Philharmoniker, Br-Sch-16-002.
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