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The orchestra play in a concert hall called the Musikverein. Before becoming a member of the Vienna Philharmonic the musicians have to work for at least three years in the opera house (the Vienna State Opera). Then they are allowed to try to become a member of the Vienna Philharmonic.
The orchestra started in 1842, when Otto Nicolai formed the Philharmonische Academie. The members of this orchestra made all the decisions about how the orchestra should be organized, and the orchestra still works in this way today.
When Nicolai left in 1847, the orchestra nearly came to an end. They did not play very much until 1860, when Karl Anton Eckert joined as conductor. Since then, the orchestra has given concerts all the time.
From 1875 to 1898 Hans Richter was principal conductor, except for the season 1882-1883 when he had an argument with the orchestral committee. During the time Richter was conductor the orchestra gave the first performances of several very famous works, including Symphonies no 2 and 3 by Brahms and Symphony no 8 by Anton Bruckner.
Gustav Mahler was their conductor from 1898 to 1901. During this time the orchestra played abroad for the first time. They played at the 1900 Paris World Exposition. The next conductors of the orchestra were Felix Weingartner, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Clemens Krauss.
Since 1933, the orchestra has not had one main conductor, but instead it has many guest conductors who have stayed for short periods. These have included a great many of the world's best known conductors, including Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini, Hans Knappertsbusch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Karl Böhm, John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Carlo Maria Giulini, Georg Solti, Erich Kleiber, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, Daniel Barenboim and Valery Gergiev. Three conductors, however, gave many concerts with the orchestra during the period after World War II: Karajan and Böhm, who were made honorary conductors, and Bernstein, who was made an honorary member of the orchestra.
Since 1941 the orchestra has played the New Year's Day concert every January 1, in their concert hall Musikverein. The concert is dedicated to the music of the Strauss family composers, especially Johann Strauss II. The concert is watched on television by people all over the world.
In recent years the orchestra has been criticised because they did not allow women to become full members of the orchestra. This is now gradually starting to change. They were also criticised for racism because they only took people who were white. In 2001 they appointed a violinist who was half-Asian.
Guest Conductors (since 1933)