All That Strauss

The Vienna Art Orchestra performs the first New Years Concert in Jazz with the blessings of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the legendary Sofiensälen which are unfortunately burned down in 2001. All pieces played at the classical New Years Concert are rearranged (in a bar-by-bar version) by mathias rüegg. Guests are: Michel Portal, Wolfgang Puschnig, Rudi Berger and Bertl Mayer. "All that Strauss" is released on TCB and featured on a TV production produced by Swiss and Austrian TV stations (SF DRS / ORF).

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Artistry in Rhythm

The second VAO project of this year features 22 musicians from 9 nations around the star drummer Jojo Mayer, including Patrice Heral (percussion), Adrian Mears (trombone), Ed Partyka (tuba), Wolfgang Muthspiel (guitar), Arkady Shilkloper and Tom Varner (french horn). This European Suite dedicated to fifteen European capitals based on one tempo, is recorded in the course of the European tour by the Swiss television station (SF DRS). A CD under the same name is released by TCB. 

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A Centenary Journey 1900-2000

The third production illustrates a century of jazz from 1900 until 2000 beginning with Rag Time until today’s Grooves. Each decade relates to a specific style. From 1970 on the acoustic rhythm section is replaced by the electric rhythm section by the masterly drummer Thomas Lang. The program is presented in the course of the European tour at the following festivals: JVC Festival Paris, Jazz-no-Jazz Zürich, Sarajevo, Bolzano and Leverkusen. The CD "A centenary journey 1900-2000" is released by the Austrian label QUINTON. In addition, the VAO performs the "Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love" at the Jazz Festival in San Sebastian and at two concerts in Vienna with Joe Zawinul as special guest.

La música de la Vienna Art Orchestra es un canto al hombre y a la vida, a la creatividad y a la memoria, porque muestra todas sus sensaciones, las piensa y disfruta, y, además, las anticipa. (El Mundo)

Favorite subject of discussion: Diana Krall.

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Due to the huge preparations for the 25th anniversary tour in 2002 the VAO performs only one concert in Porto (Portugal) with the program Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. In August the recording of the ART&FUN CD is made in Vienna.

This music has substance. In performing it, the band reflects joy. Viva Europa! (JazzTimes)

Favorite subject of discussion: how to play live in the studio.



Art & Fun

25th anniversary tour: VAO performs during three tours (spring, summer & fall) the new program ART&FUN.25, which is played with a twenty-member international line-up including 2 rhythm sections. A Centenary Journey 1900-2000 as well as Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love are also played on tour. The orchestra plays 59 concerts in 14 different countries (including Canada). Appearances at North Sea Festival, Umbria Jazz, Vancouver Jazzfestival, Montréal Jazz, Nattjazz Festival, Paris Jazzfestival, Jazz Sous les Pommiers, Moers Festival, Moscow Festival, Vilnius Mama Jazzfestival, Jazzfestival Schaffhausen among others.  Travel distance goes up to 59.400 km during the three tours.
The ART&FUN CD is released by EMARCY/Universal Music. The spanish magazine Cuadernos de Jazz selects the Art&Fun recording as the best of the year 2002. Jahrespreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Prize of the year of the German record critics) for "A Centenary Journey 1900-2000".

Montreal Jazzfestival... on stage was Austria’s Vienna Art Orchestra, mathias rüegg’s zany, unconventional big band that uses almost every instrument imaginable (including a didgeridoo ... what kind of big band uses a didgeridoo?), to create a hilarious, sometimes swinging, sometimes way out sonic palette. The show was spectacular. (Down Beat)

Favorite subject of discussion: dynamics.

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The Vienna art Orchestra provided live music for the special multi-media show celebrating the 750th anniversary of the city of St.Gallen (CH). mathias rüegg composed all the music for this stunning event, witnessed by over 5000 people at its performance in April. The VAO recorded music for the sound installation in “Loisium”, a mysterious underground wine world in Langenlois (A). The music was composed by mathias rüegg and the CD is only available at “Loisium”. In June the band performed for three nights at the “Jazzfest Wien” and recorded a live CD for Universal Records: “Duke Ellington´s Sound of Love Vol. II”. The band took Duke Ellington´s Sound of Love and Art & Fun on tour in the fall through Germany, Switzerland, France, Hungary, Croatia and Austria and ended the year with the traditional performance of All That Strauss on New Years Eve in Porgy & Bess, back home in Vienna.

2003 was a very successful year for the VAO, performing for sold-out houses across Europe and garnering critical acclaim from the european press. In addition, American jazz bible Down Beat featured the VAO and mathias rüegg in it’s April issue with an article celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary and mathia’s 50th birthday.
Gott hockt im Detail (wie der Teufel auch), und wer ihn dort sucht, wird ihn auch finden. Die Wüste lebt, "Caravan" zieht weiter. Selbst diesen alten Hut setzen sich Rüegg und Co. derart schräg auf, dass er sich ausnimmt wie der letzte Schrei. (Weltwoche)

Favorite subject of discussion: digital cameras.



Big Band Poesie

This new program by mathias rüegg contains thirteen new compositions with titles that are actually quotes from various famous big band leaders; ones which shed light on important aspects of their work or life philosophies. The contents of these highly pertinent and sometimes contradictory statements serve as the inspiration and point of departure for these new pieces, which -- in its 28th year -- the Vienna Art Orchestra will be presenting in its tours of Europe and South America. The VAO’s acoustic big band line-up, which has hardly changed since 1999 and therefore sounds remarkably homogenous, will be supported by guitarist, "sound -whiz" and electronics specialist Martin Koller, who previously brought his talents to the VAO’s Art & Fun (2002) Remix CD. Each of the thirteen compositions is also enriched by other specifically-introduced, simultaneously-played elements from today’s electronic music (grooves, sounds, noises...), whereby the band’s Brazilian guitarist Alegre Corrêa handles the percussion instead of his usual guitar. As a result, the VAO’s now virtually "classical" sound develops new colors and the soloists -- who, as always, stand in the center point -- are challenged to reach new heights. All of this takes place in a very poetic way... And as always, with optimal sound design and visual support. 

Concerts & festivals in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Brasil, Germany, Switzerland & Austria.

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Swing & Affairs

The Vienna Art Orchestra -- created by mathias rüegg in 1977 and developed from a small-scale orchestral ensemble into a big band in the year 1998, has produced eight program-based albums with the rather constant membership it has kept since then, including: American Rhapsody; Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love, Vol.I; All that Strauß; Artistry in Rhythm; A Centenary Journey; Art & Fun; Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love, Vol. II and Big Band Poesie. In Swing & Affairs, best moments from these past programs are presented along with new arrangements of other compositions from earlier periods, selected from a range of about five-hundred possibilities. mathias rüegg has written all of the arrangements and half of the compositions, with additions by Franz Schubert, Erik Satie, Charles Mingus, Tommy Wolf, Eric Dolphy, Mongo Santamaria and Thelonious Monk. This new recorded colorful Best-Of program reveals all shades of this energetic orchestra, which brings together soloists from eight different countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Netherlands, USA & Australia) and places them in the spotlight for these pieces that are tailor-made for them. 

Concerts & Festivals in England, Spain, Croatia, France, Germany, Switzerland & Austria.

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Due to intense preparation of the three new programs for the 30th anniversary of the Band in 2007, the VAO was performing only a limited number of engagements: Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love at the Philharmonie Essen & All That Strauss  in Liezen & Vienna.




For years now I‘ve been thinking of composing a set of three thematically-related programs for the Vienna Art Orchestra. Each of these should also be able to stand alone as an independent program. In March 2005, after I had finally decided on the right presentation, I started by doing a lot of research and reading, not fully realizing what I was getting myself into. The intensive work process pushed everyone to the limit, particularly the rehearsals and recording sessions of summer 2006. It extended over a period of 20 months, ending in mid-October 2006. Sit back and enjoy. There’s plenty to discover!

The first program, American Dreams - Portraits of 13 American Women, stands for 100 years of the USA -- the “New World“ -- as represented by some of the greatest American film divas of the first half of the 20th century. Each of these icons, who together have written film history, will lend her name to one of the pieces, which attempt to capture the essence and effect of these women in music. Aesthetically, they will be presented in true American style, that is to say by contemporary big band jazz.

In the second program, European Visionaries - Portraits of 13 European Men, Europe -- or the “Old World“ -- is symbolized by Thinking; in other words by a selection of visionaries who have contributed substantially to the progress of civilization over the last 1000 years. Each of these pieces is named after one of these geniuses, whom I have tried to represent abstractly in music as faithfully as possible by reducing them to symbols (indicated in the subtitles) which serve as the basis for the individual compositions. This program is oriented around the outstanding achievements in European music and therefore the sound of the VAO is more orchestral or symphonic than usual. The themes are introduced in 13 miniatures, or preludes, played by classical music duos.

The third program, Visionaries & Dreams - Portraits of 13 Couples, presents 13 fictional encounters inspired by actual quotations among other things. Musically, each piece contains two separate compositions which are juxtaposed to create a synthesis of the first two programs. The USA and Europe are thus brought together to commingle in the music, producing a mixture of these two worlds: of sensuality and abstraction; of American and European aesthetics; of American and European jazz. In these times, when Europeans and Americans are increasingly unable or unwilling to understand each other, when the gap seems to be growing ever wider, the trilogy “3“ strives to add a conciliatory note to promote understanding between these two cultures which are so much the same and yet so different.
Note: “Atheists“ may feel free to view this whole series simply as a sophisticated, multi-layered musical game.

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Third Dream

First, the good news: the Vienna Art Orchestra will continue to exist for another five years, even if the subsidy status is not yet completely clear. The current financial base is strong enough to allow for optimism about the future so plans have already begun for a new program and tour for 2009. Looking back, a change of style and line up has occurred every decade or so and so now, after ten years of big band, it’s time for another change.
It’s obvious from what you can hear and see that Vienna offers a large number of first rate young musicians who are equally at home in the jazz-related and improvisational styles. The new line up will therefore include both jazz and classical musicians who will also be featured as soloists. In the new program, rüegg will draw on his knowledge of both jazz and classical music to make them flow together into a new unified form. Virtuosity, complex rhythms/harmonies, creative tension and energy will be combined within the scope of a carefully thought out dramaturgical concept that is exciting and far from boring. As in the past 15 years, visual elements will give added interest to the presentation.

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© 2017 by mathias rüegg, 1070 Wien, Westbahnstrasse 10/5