What is the Vienna Sound?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is known for its signature Viennese sound and its stunning performances of Austrian composers—Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert among them. The orchestra’s sound is defined by the instruments it plays and the way its musicians play them.

The oboe, clarinets, and bassoons played by the Philharmonic use distinctive fingering and special reeds. The trumpets have a rotary valve system and are comparatively narrow, as are the trombones. The Viennese F tuba has a valve system that requires a challenging fingering technique; vibrato is used sparingly. The Viennese F horn has a narrow bore and an extended leadpipe, as well as a system of piston valves that allow exceptionally smooth legato.

Because of the unique fingering and structure of the instruments, the Vienna Philharmonic says its sound is brighter, with a wider dynamic range and more readily modulated tone and color than the sound of orchestras that use traditional instruments and a conventional style of play.

Read more about the Vienna Philharmonic.

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