Last Thursday night, Vienna Philharmonic Society welcomed friends to a standing room only concert and dinner at a private club. Its chairman and founder, Marifé Hernández, with her husband, Joel Bell, and their board members, presided over the elegant black-tie affair that felt more like a private party than a benefit evening.
After cocktails, guests assembled for a chamber concert; members of the Vienna Philharmonic and their Academy playing Brahms Sextet in G Major, op.36. There were only brief introductions. First Marifé thanked the evening’s diplomatic patrons, His Excellency Alexander Marschik, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United National and Mrs. Marschik, and Her Excellency Helene Steinhäeusl Austrian Consul General in New York and Mr. Hubert Hess and asking her fellow board members, Thomas C. Altmann, Matthias Ederer, Alexandra Kauka Hamill, Dr. Nizam Kettaneh, Cynthia Sculco, Theodora Simons, and Sedgwick Ward, to stand for applause.
Then she began warm praise for the achievements of their Vienna Philharmonic Academy which trains exceptional young musicians in the ‘Viennese Sound’ and the Orchestra’s tradition of excellence. Next spoke Michael Bladerer, General Manager and Daniel Froschauer the chairman of the Orchestra, acknowledging the contributions of the Americans.
Following the concert and wild applause, guests were ushed into dinner offering lobster bisque en croûte with foie gras, porcini, and black truffles, followed by filet mignon in a red wine morel sauce and baby vegetables, a finally, a chocolate soufflé and gelato. The wine, a Chateau Giscours, Margaux 2014. Unlike so many dinners in New York, no one stirred till well after the dessert and coffee was cleared.
Guests included Ariane Batterberry, William Bernhard, Louis Bofferding, Noreen and Kenneth Buckfire, Jacquie Garrett, Carole and John French, Sir Clive and Lady Anya Gillinson Ambassador and Mrs. Andrew Jacovides, Maria Eugenia Maury and William Haseltine, Jay Nordlinger, Sana Sabbagh, Barbaralee Dimonstein-Spievogel, Elizabeth Stribling and Guy Robinson, Barbara Tober, and many more.
This glittering evening kicked off three days for the Vienna Philharmonic of sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall under the mighty baton of Christian Thielemann.
Since their founding in 1842, the Vienna Philharmonic’s inimitable style and sound has been influenced by their close artistic collaboration with the most prominent conductors and soloists. In 2016 Marife Hernandez founded the Vienna Philharmonic Society, a non-profit U.S. organization that seeks to extend the reach of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, its music, and its music education expertise. Highlights of their activities include Master Classes with Orchestra musicians for students from across the United States (in partnership with The Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall) as well as a collaboration with the Orchestra to establish the new Vienna Philharmonic Academy in Vienna to train exceptional young musicians in the ‘Viennese Sound’ and the Orchestra’s tradition of excellence.
There are currently Academists from four continents. To date, five Americans have won auditions to study at the Academy and three of them have already won positions with the Vienna State Opera/Vienna Philharmonic. Based in Vienna Philharmonic Academy offers tuition-free admission to 11-13 music students aged 18 – 27 across 10 musical instruments for a two-year course of study which includes private lessons with Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra musicians, chamber music instruction and performance, audition preparation and orchestral training with the Orchestra. The Academists live in newly built dorms at the University of Vienna and receive a monthly stipend.
Academy students are accompanied by individual members of the orchestra as mentors, working with them in the preparation of solo repertoire at the highest level. Students have the opportunity to perform chamber music on stage with members of the Orchestra. Academy students experience first-hand a unique style of playing, a variety of interpretations and the Orchestra’s sound, all based on long-established traditions. They are working with the greatest conductors and most renowned soloists of our time and perform with the Vienna Philharmonic in the world’s most famous concert halls, experiencing the enthusiasm of international audiences. It is this passion for music and dedication to the profession which the Orchestra wishes to pass on to the next generation.
For more information see: www.viennaphilharmonicsociety.org
Photographs by Fadi Kheir