Vienna Art Orchestra

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Vienna Art Orchestra 1985 in Hamburg

The Vienna Art Orchestra ( VAO ) was an Austrian orchestra of modern creative . It was founded in 1977 by Mathias Rüegg , Wolfgang Puschnig and Woody Schabata in Vienna . Until its dissolution in 2010, it developed under the direction of Mathias Rüegg into one of the most innovative and successful ensembles in recent jazz history.

Band history

The ensemble was initially founded “out of pure joy, inspired by the Viennese underground ”. Until 1979, the Vienna Art Orchestra was more actionist. Then increasingly sophisticated compositions and arrangements by Mathias Rüegg were played. Vibraphonist Werner Pirchner and guitarist Harry Pepl joined the formation at short notice . Via Walter Richard Langer's television program Bourbon Street , Rüegg discovered the American vocalist Lauren Newton and the German trumpeter and flugelhorn player Herbert Joos , who belonged to the group until 1997.

The formation soon appeared on numerous stages in Europe and also played on a US tour in 18 American cities as well as in Asia and Africa. When the original line-up, which for many years also included Hannes Kottek and Jürgen Wuchner as well as Puschnig, Fian, Lauren Newton and Herbert Joos , largely disbanded at the end of the 1980s , after a brief stagnation a reorientation followed in 1992 with a smaller line-up with musicians like Matthieu Michel , Andy Scherrer , Klaus Dickbauer , Marc Halbheer and Florian Bramböck as well as the singer Corin Curschellas . Rüegg composed less, mainly arrangements for programs such as European Songbook , Ballads or American Rhapsody were created .

In 1997 the line-up of the ensemble changed again. Musicians like pianist Uli Scherer left the orchestra, the band got younger overall, and musicians like Anna Lauvergnac , Thomas Gansch , Robert Riegler , Arkady Shilkloper , Christian Muthspiel , Martin Koller , Alegre Corrêa and Georg Breinschmid joined them. The formation played again in a large big band line-up . It turned into a swinging big band with a traditional character and tried to deliver concerts that were well designed in terms of both the musical quality and the appearance. In addition, new compositions by Mathias Rüegg were regularly on the program.

In 2009 there were again important changes in the line-up of the ensemble. The orchestra of the big band was replaced by a chamber orchestra in which classical and jazz musicians were united, all of whom also appeared as soloists. In the new program, Rüegg processed his knowledge of jazz and classical music and let them flow together to form a new unit.

The last concert of the ensemble took place on July 9, 2010 at the Musikforum Viktring in Carinthia. The next day Mathias Rüegg announced the end of the Vienna Art Orchestra on the ensemble's website under the heading "Game over". As reasons for his decision, he cited "chronic underfunding, a massive drop in demand from the core countries Austria, Switzerland and Germany as well as the economic collapse of countries like Italy, Spain or France" and concluded with a quote from the song Me and Bobby made famous by Janis Joplin McGee from Kris Kristofferson : "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose".

On October 6, 2012, the Vienna Art Orchestra reunited for a single concert, largely with the original line-up of the 1980s. As part of the generations jazz festival in Frauenfeld (CH), most of the musicians were back on stage together after 23 years and only played pieces from that time. A long-term reactivation of the band was not planned.


With over 800 concerts in 50 countries and more than 35 sound carriers, the VAO was considered one of the leading European ensembles of modern creative jazz and acted as Austria's official cultural ambassador. In the 1980s, the formation received numerous European jazz polls. In 2001 and 2003 the Vienna Art Orchestra was nominated for an Amadeus Austrian Music Award .

In 2010, Klaus Nüchtern pointed out, that saxophonist Harry Sokal had played in the 21-person ensemble as the “longest-serving member”: “He was there from the first concert.” In the eighties, the VAO “became a spearhead of musical postmodernism “Become. Mathias Rüegg, interviewed in writing, commented on the effects of the economic crisis with "... of course, the lobby-free jazz scene is hit particularly hard." The creative industry is undervalued as an economic factor. The VAO was “the only privately run, professional large formation in Europe in the jazz sector ”, “which was international and constantly worked.” In an interview, Rüegg praised Gerhard Randa ( Bank Austria ) “for his massive commitment in the jazz sector” without that “the VAO hasn't existed for a long time”. When asked about his personal professional future, Rüegg said (which Sober made the title of the report): "I will not find a better orchestra."

For Robert Fischer , Trilogy 3 , published in 2007, is something like the musical legacy of the Vienna Art Orchestra: "For the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Art Orchestra, he gave himself and us the trilogy" 3 ", the first part of which -" American Dreams. Portraits. " of 13 American Women "- confidently demonstrates what big band music is capable of today. The second and longest part -" European Visionaries. Portraits of 13 European Men "- is even more intense and controls with the one dedicated to Stephen Hawking The final piece, “Black Holes”, is approaching a brilliant high point of the entire production. The third part, however - “Visionaries & Dreams. Portraits of 13 Couples” - is a successful synthesis of the first two parts and is, above all, pure Mathias Rüegg ...

Discography (selection)

  • Tango from Obango - 1980 - extra record
  • The Minimalism of Erik Satie - 1984 - HatHut Records
  • nightride of a lonely saxophoneplayer 1985 Live, double LP, Moers Music 02054/5
  • Swiss Swing (Vienna Art Orchestra And Voices) 1986 - Moers Music 02060
  • Inside Out - Live 1986 - Moers Music 02062/63
  • European Songbook - 1995 - BMG
  • Duke Ellington's Sound of Love - 1999 - TCB Records
  • All that Strauss - 2000 - TCB
  • Big Band Poetry - 2004 - Universal Music
  • American Dreams - European Visionaries - Visionaries & Dreams - 2007 - Universal Music
  • Third Dream - 2009 - extra record
  • Vienna Art Orchestra - The Big Band Years - 2010 - Universal Music ( Compilation on 4 CDs, Limited Edition)



  • Big Band Poetry (Director: Stefan Schwietert; Switzerland 2007)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Joe Zawinul said in an interview with Peter Rüedi for the Swiss weekly magazine Die Weltwoche ( Joe Zawinul: That's the art ) in December 2006: “What ... Mathias Rüegg created there with his Vienna Art Orchestra cannot be overestimated. He came here at a time, thirty years ago, when there was nothing here. He built up a large orchestra and gave many people work, but also educated many musically. Today there are musicians in Vienna, you wouldn't believe that, and Rüegg lit and kept the flame. "
  2. ^ Matthias Rüegg: Herbert Joos
  3. ^ Vienna Art Orchestra is history in Kleine Zeitung
  4. See the presentation on the ensemble's website
  5. Archived copy ( memento of the original from January 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Jazzpolls (VAO)
  7. Falter weekly magazine , Vienna, No. 29/2010, July 21, 2010, p. 26 f.
  8. ^ Robert Fischer: Anything goes. In: All that Jazz. The story of a music. Reclam publishing house, Stuttgart. 3rd, expanded and updated edition 2007, pp. 434–435