Following is a brief, year by year, historical account of the Vienna Art Orchestra.

  Updates and other information will be welcomed.

77 | 78 | 79 | 80 | 81 | 82 | 83 | 84 | 85 | 86 | 87 | 88 | 89 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93 | 94 | 95 | 96 | 97


Vienna Art Orchestra founded by Rüegg, Puschnig and Schabata... without intentions, out of pure enjoyment and a little craziness... inspired by the creativity of the Vienna underground. First concert in Jazz-Gitti Club, Vienna. Street concerts, parties, happenings. Concert for four trees, fireworks, the soldier's book, half-militant children and orchestra.

Favorite Subject of Discussion (FSOD): Anarchy

1978 - Jessas Na

Multimedia concertos in Vienna with two writers(Joe Berger, Otto Kobalek), and two dancers, in additions to 22 performance artists and other participants. Performance at the first Saalfelden Jazz Festival with a local 45 piece brass band. During the first tour, the band is torn apart by disagreements and breaks up before finishing the tour. Recording of Single "Jessas Na" (re-issued in 1992).

FSOD: Love

1979 - Tango from Obango

The VAO now has 15 members (Werner Pirchner, Harry Pepl, Bumi Fian, Lauren Newton, Roman Schwaller, Herbert Joos, Uli Scherer, Wolfgang Puschnig, Christian Radovan, Heiri Känzig, Harry Sokal, and Wolfgang Reisinger, among others) and has finaly become more of a serious Jazz Orchestra. Two short tours in Austria. Recording of first LP, "Tango from Obango", for Extraplatte (which will be re-released on CD in 97).

FSOD: Music

1980 - Concerto Piccolo

First invitations from abroad (jazz festivals in Cologne and Zürich). The band plays really "tight" for the first time and begins to attract interest. First record contract with hat ART. Joris Dudli and John Sass join the band. In addition to two tours, VAO performs at the Vienna Festival (Wienere Festwochen) in the production "Der 8. Tag" (The Eight Day), with more than 100 other participants (The Vienna choir Jeunesse Musicale, a brass band, a solo dancer, mimes, spoken texts by Antonia Limacher and simultaneous scenic design).


1981 - Suite for the Green Eighties

Following invitations to the Berlin Jazz Festival (Berliner Jazztage) and festivals in Donaueschingen, Hamburg, Moers and Warsaw, VAO enjoys wide international acclaim for the first time. With their "Wiener Schmäh" (i.e. Puschnig's lampoons), they become known in the European jazz scene as an insider's tip. Scenic production, "Johnny tritt ab", for the Donaueschingen Musiktage (with Maggie Nichols, Karin Krog, Lauren Newton, Jon Surman, & Harry Pepl). VAO produces the U&E Third Dream Festivals in Vienna, for which 10 Austrian jazz bands arrange compositions by contemporary Austrian composers.

FSOD: The world

1982 - From No Time to Rag Time

The VAO plays little-known jazz tunes by Anthony Braxton, Lennie Tristano, Hans Koller, Scott Joplin, Bokker Little. James Bood Ulmer, Fritz Power and others. 40 concerts in seven countries. Festivals performances include Willsau, Saalfelden, Leipzig, Nancy, Milan, Balve. Jahrespreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Prize of the year of the German record critics) for "Concerto Piccolo"). VAO wins first jazz poll (ranks as No. 1 european Big Band at the Warsaw Jazz Forum).

FSOD: Exceeding all limits

1983 - The Minimalism of Erik Satie

The horns interpret the music of Erik Satie and receive invitations from numerous classical festivals. Finland tour and an invitation to play mixed program at the Paris Jazz Festival. Rüegg forms the Vienna Art Choir (11 members of the Viennese Scönberg Choir, plus Puschnig, Radovan, L. Newton and George Lewis). Commissioned by Vienna's Serapion Theater, VAO plays its own version of Richard Wagner's "Götterdämmerung". Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik and Prix jazz d'avantgarde (Paris) for "Suite for the Green Eighties".

FSOD: Philosophy

1984 - Perpetuum Mobile

USA tour (16 concerts throughout N.America, in such places as Kennedy Center, Washington DC, and in New York City's Public Theater. Present in the Audience are Gil Evans and Benny Golson). Further concerts in India and Bangkok (session with the musicians of the Royal Big Band of King Bhumipol Adolaydej). Puschnig, Schabata, Newton and Rüegg develop a concept with the Austrian poet Ernst Jandl in an effort to fuse open music with onomatopoetic "Jandl-artistry". This joint project lasts until 1991 and results in three CDs: "bist eulen?", "vom vom zum zum" and "lieber ein saxophon" (all Extraplatte). In 1987, in collaboration with Uli Scherer, the concept is expanded. Concert series based on the program "The minimalism of Erik Satie". The VAO ranks #1 in the Down Beat Poll (cat TWDR).

FSOD: Women

1985 - Nightride of a Lonely Saxophoneplayer

The band, on an all-time high, plays 77 concerts in four months in 17 countries (Festivals: Montreux (TV), Athens, Genoa, Ljubljana, Moers, Groningen, Münster, East Berlin (TV), Tarbes, Luxemburg, Molde (TV), Bratislava, Leverkusen, Bergenz...) but this strenuous pace takes its toll on band members and tensions break out. Hannes Kottek plays lead trumpet for the first time. VAO becomes an official banner group for Austrian culture and ranks number one in nearly all jazz polls. Jahrespreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik for "bist eulen?". The VAO switches to Moers Music (unfortunately).

FSOD: Money

1986 - Two Little Animals

Two European tours. Jazz festivals in Maputo, Mozambique and San Sebastian, In Wels, the VAO musicians appear in all of their various groupings for "An Evening with 7 x Art". Quarterly prize of the German record critics (Vierteljahrspreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik) for "Perpetuum Mobile". Performances of "The Minimalism of Erik Satie" in Milan, Florence and at the Brucknerhaus, Linz. The Swiss Swing project (art choir plus orchestra) premieres at Willisau Jazz Festival.

FSOD: Repetition

1987 - Inside Out

"Sens", the multimedia revue commissioned for the Vienna Festival (Wiener Festwochen) draws an audience of 5,000. Featured, among others, are Rudi Berger, Dominique Pifarely (violin), Gérard Jamart (glass organ) and the Vienna Art Choir (televised). European tour, including performances at the Madrid Jazz Festival, the Europalia in Brussels and the Philharmonic in Cologne. Performances of "The Minimalism of Erik Satie" at festivals in Palermo and Hamburg. The Swiss choir performs at festivals in Paris and Moers.

FSOD: Self determination vs. outside intervention

1988 - Blues for Brahms

Participation in "Warp Around the World", Nam Paik's TV special for the Olympics. Stage music for George Tabori's "Frauen, Krieg, Lustspiel". VAO produces "Jandl Total" in thee Vienna Schau-spielhaus. Lisbon Jazz Festival. European tour, including performances in Zagreb, Gerona, Barcelona, Paris, Cologne (TV Broadcast) and Vienna (TV). Co Streiff plays in the place of Wolfgang Puschnig. The orchestra signs a three-year contract with Polygram. After reaping much praise on the occasion of their 10th anniversary and enjoying 10 years of largely positive commentary by the press, the VAO finds its critics splitting into two camps, pro and con...

FSOD: Alcohol

1989 - Innocence of Clichés

VAO goes on tour to Jerusalem and to festivals in Rome, Catania, Paris, Willisau, Lee Mans, Amiens and Angoulëme, with two different programs: "Innocence of Clichés" and "Fe & Males", a staged musical composition in which seven female instrumentalists have encounters with seven male musicians (based on the "Seven Tales of the Seven Princesses" by the Persian pot Nizami. Musicians include Marilyn Mazur, Hélène Labarrière, Ingrid Jensen and Gabriele Rosenberg). For George Tabori "Kreis" the VAO arranges themes from Verdi for "Lovers and Lunatics". After the second tour, the VAO loses its regular membership, which for the past 11 years had hardly changed. A long-standing successful formula seems to be showing signs of wear.

FSOD: Divorce

1990 - Chapter II

The orchestra begins working (again) with younger., unknown musicians, while cor of old members remains. Klaus Dickbauer, Florian Bramböck, Thomas Alkier, Joseph Bowie and Alexandra Naumann join the band. European tour with concerts in Sweden, Norway, Spain, France, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Austria. Lighting effects are added for the first time. The band has fun again and plays "full power". Other tours feature the programs " Fe & Males" (televised in Vienna and Leverkusen) and "lieber in saxophon" with Ernst Jandl.

FSOD: Tax law

1991 - N t M zart

The VAO takes a one-year pause as a jazz orchestra. Rüegg is invited by the Swiss to write a program for specially-created Swiss Art Orchestra, in which nearly all major Swiss jazz musicians participate. Production with the BBC of a 30-minute music film titled "N t M zart", which is picked up by 10 European TV channels. In France, a recording session and tour with "Fe & Males"

FSOD: The past

1992 - Standing... WHAT?

For the first time , Rüegg contracts out all compositions for the new program (to Uli Scherer, Werner Pirchner, Wolfgang Puschnig, Daniel Schnyder, Florian Bramböck). Corin Curschellas, Danilo Terenzi, Matthieu Michel and Claudio Pontiggia join the orchestra. Two European tours (EXPO Sevilla, festivals in Helsinki and Ultrecht, a.o). Commissions by the Donaufestival and the banlieues Bleues (Paris) and Trento result in the production "La Belle et la Bête", an homage to Jean Cocteau.

FSOD: Getting up in the morning

1993 - The Original Charts of Duke Ellington & Charles Mingus

Repeat performances of "La Belle et la Bête". Austria tour and four-day guest appearance at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. The VAO is expanded for the first time into big band formation and plays th original charts of Duke Eellington and Charles Mingus. Two European tours and a live appearance at the 5 spot, NYC. Festivals include Saalfelden, Willisau, Mulhouse, Hamburg, Pescara. CD produced by the American label Verve. Rü opens "Porgy and Bess", which quickly earns a solid reputation as a jazz club, thanks in part to generous federal support and subsidy by the city of Vienna and Bank of Austria. "Penguin Jazz Guide" ranks "The Minimalism of Erik Satie" among the 10 best jazz recordings out of 10,000 under review. VAO Receives the 1993 European Jazz Award from the Académi française du jazz.

FSOD: Why?

1994 - Vienna Art Orchestra Plays for Jean Cocteau

"La Belle et la Bête" is presented in Bordeaux, on three evenings in Zürich's Gessnerallee and at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festivals. "The Original Charts" are played at the Bolzano, Ulm and Munich festivals, at the Triennale in Cologne and in the Hague. At the Montreux Festival, the VAO accompanies singers Helen Merill, Gabrielle Goodman & Betty Carter in a Special Event. Rüegg writes "M", a composition for Corin Curschellas and mixed ensemble, based on texts by John Cage (in an adaptation by Karin Kaminker) and premières it during the "Lange Nacht der neuen Klänge" in Vienna's Konzerthaus.

FSOD: Self-restraint

1995 - Nine Immortal Nonevergreens for Eric Dolphy

"The Original Chrts" are given repeat performances at the Amiens, Coutences, Albi and Vienna festivals in France and at the Vienna Jazz Festival. Hannes Kottek, VAO's lead trumpet player from 1984-91, and trombonist Danilo Terenzi, who joined the band in 1990, both died of cncer... 27 European performancees of "Nine Immortal NonEvergreens for eric dolphy" in october, plus live recording of program by Amadeo/Verve. Trombonist Christian Muthspiel joins the band.

FSOD: Death

1996 - Third Dream

VAO plays an Ellington program at the Gunther Schuller Festival in the Brucknerhaus at Linz. Summer: On a whirlwind trip to Singapore and Tokyo, the VAO presents a program of Highlights,for which the Polish-American vocalist Urzula Dudziak joins the band for the first time. Studio recordings of the two CDs, Ballads and M. Autumn: The Orchstra plays six different programs - Tango from Obango, From No Time to Rag Time, The Minimalism of Erik Satie, Nightride of a lonely Saxophoneplayer, Chapter II, and Nine Immortal Nonevergreens for Eric Dolphy. The line-up primarily features Viennese musicians, such as Christian and Robert Bachner, Herwig Gradischnig, Reinhard Micko, Frank Schwinn, Ali Gaggl and Cornelia Giehse. Also deserving special mention are the percusionist Ingrid Oberkanins, bassist Robert Riegler, and the young drummer Gregor Hilbe, all of whom will become regular members of the orchestra as of 1997. RCA releases the recording "3rd Dream" made jointly with the NDR Big Band and the Hannover Symphony Orchestra, with the participation of Thomas Alkier, Klaus Dickbauer and Claudio Pontiggia and solos by Herbert Joos and Uli Scherer.

FSOD: Cellular telephones

1997 - An echo from Europe

The VAO has made it to its 20th Anniversary year, for which three tours, compromising 70 concertos in Europe and Canada, have been planned. In addition to various Highlights Programs, the orchestra will present "An Echo from Europ", dedicated to such stylsettings Europeans as Mangelsdorff, Garbarek, Portal, Sclavis and Bates. Publication by the highly-reputed Falter publishing house of a book documenting the 20 years of the VAO. The Vienna-Salzburg InterCity train adopts the name of the orchestra. Performance of the '97 program during a 3-day festival at Vienna's Messepalast and on one evening at the Wiener Jazzszene.

FSOD: Today everything's better than before?