Dec. 10, 2020

Suntory Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Spread Hope and Joy through the Power of Music

This year, the world has changed immensely as people continue to maintain new ways of living – whether in work, relationships, hobbies, or interests. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people across the globe and as we all collectively work to support communities and ensure the health and safety of those around us, Suntory Group is giving back to society amid challenging circumstances.

Sharing in the true joy of music creates connections, lifts spirits, and fosters a sense of belonging. Suntory Hall aims to bring hope and inspiration to people through music. In November, Suntory Hall hosted one of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras, Wiener Philharmoniker (the Vienna Philharmonic), for the annual Wiener Philharmoniker Week in Japan, a Suntory Hall tradition since 1999. This long-standing residency offers Japanese audiences a regular opportunity to enjoy the distinguished orchestra.

The annual Japan Tour is very important to the Vienna Philharmonic and they looked forward to playing for Japanese audiences especially this year under the challenging circumstances. Their firm dedication to this special partnership with Suntory Hall allowed us to continue the tradition in 2020.

It was the first visit by an international orchestra since the global outbreak of COVID-19, and also the first intercontinental travel of an orchestra in full formation (100+ musicians). The orchestra demonstrated their pioneering spirit by conducting scientific experiments in the very early stages of the tour. Since June, all orchestra personnel have been taking PCR tests once every four days and have disciplined themselves with the highest precautionary measures. These safety efforts and self-restrictions allowed orchestra personnel to enter Japan without undergoing a 14-day quarantine. While in Japan, they were not allowed to leave their hotels, except for when traveling to and from the concert venues by designated coaches or vehicles to remain socially distanced from the general public.

In its nearly 180-year long history, the Vienna Philharmonic has held 36 concert tours in Japan, including their first in 1956. This year, the orchestra was conducted by Russian Maestro Valery Gergiev and welcomed two soloists, including cellist, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, President of Suntory Hall. With eight concerts total, the orchestra toured major cities such as Kitakyushu, Osaka, and Kawasaki, and held five of their concerts at Suntory Hall. These five concerts were the hall’s first with a full capacity audience since February, two months after capacity restrictions were lifted in Japan in September.

At the second concert at Suntory Hall, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique” was dedicated to those around the world who have been impacted by COVID-19 and was followed by a speech from Wiener Philharmoniker Chairman Daniel Froschauer, who requested the audience join in a moment of silence after the performance. Chairman Froschauer also recognized their responsibility and purpose in sharing hope and joy as “ambassadors of music” during these challenging times.

“We are very well aware that many musician’s voices and instruments have to stay silent tonight and we feel extremely privileged to be able to share our music with you. Thanks to our strong partners like Suntory Hall, our Government, the Japanese Government, and our Embassies.”

Through music and other cultural and social activities, Suntory will continue to contribute to the development of a rich culture and lifestyle for people around the world – throughout the pandemic and beyond.

CSR, Culture/Sports, Yatte Minahare