Wien Ensemble with Janis Vakarelis

A string quartet with a double bass instead of a cello? That is a combination which is both interesting from a musical point of view and “original” as, for instance, in Mozart's divertimenti or Haydn's early string quartets.

This constellation also allows the Ensemble Wien to fulfill its philosophy of incorporating lesser-known works by Franz Schubert, Joseph Lanner and the Strauss Dynasty into its otherwise classical programming. Accordingly, its repertoire extends beyond original compositions, including works arranged exclusively for the Ensemble Wien. The ensemble's outstanding interpretation of the seemingly simple, entertaining waltzes, polkas, German dances, country dances and minuets, clearly ranks these compositions among classical masterpieces.

By following these programming guidelines, the Ensemble Wien has been very successful, holding a very popular subscription concert series for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde at the Musikverein in Vienna since 1988/89. The quartet regularly takes part in important festivals, such as the Salzburg Festival, the “Viennese Festwochen” and “Fruehlingsfestival,” the “Schubertiade” in Feldkirch, Berlin's “Festwochen,” or the Ravenna Festival, and gives concerts in other major music centers throughout Europe including Amsterdam, Athens, Cologne, Munich, and Paris. They have performed in Japan and throughout the United States, including New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and in Canada in Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver. Performances with artists such as T. Barto, J. Carreras, P. Domingo, B. Frittoli, A. Kirchschlager, G. Maisenberg, J. Vakarelis and S. Vladar round off the activities of the Ensemble.

Three ensemble members also play for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. A television appearance in the interval film of the 1999 “New Year's Concert” of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was broadcast worldwide. Radio appearances on Austrian State Radio (ORF), including three concerts transmitted throughout Europe by the European Broadcasting Union, have helped consolidate the reputation of the Ensemble Wien at home, throughout Europe and overseas. Last but not least, numerous CD-recordings testify to the multifaceted music of this unusual chamber music formation.


Reiner Honeck (violin) was born in 1961 in Nenzing, Vorarlberg ( Austria ) and began to play the violin at the age of seven. In 1969 he moved to Vienna and studied under Edith Bertschinger at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna and later on, privately with Prof. Alfred Staar. In 1978 he was awarded a scholarship from the Dr. Karl Boehm Foundation by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1981 Mr. Honeck joined the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera as a first violinist, becoming a Concertmaster in 1984.

In 1992 he was appointed concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as well. He is also an internationally renowned chamber musician (leader of the Wiener Streichersolisten) as documented in numerous CD, TV and radio recordings. As a soloist, he has recorded the complete Schubert works for violin and piano and the Dvorak and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He also gave his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons in the Dvorak Violin Concerto. Honeck plays a violin from A. Stradivarius (anno 1714) on loan from the Austrian National Bank.

Raimund Lissy (Violin) comes from Vienna. He studied under Thomas Kakuska at the University of Music and Performing Arts and also under Alfred Staar. After a short working period with the Orchestra of the Arena di Verona, he joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra in 1988. In 1991 he became a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been leader of the second violins since 1993.

Peter Goetzel (Viola) was born in Vienna. He was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir and later studied violin and viola at the Academy of Music in Vienna with Edith Steinbauer. Since 1964 he has been a first violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Following a lifelong interest in chamber music, he was a member of the Vienna String Trio and the Philharmonia Quartett. He also served as a violinist with the Kuechl-Quartett from 1973 to 1987 before founding the Ensemble Wien.

Josef Niederhammer (Double Bass) was born in Linz and studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna with Ludwig Streicher. Even before receiving his diploma exam with distinction, he was a member of the Vienna Volksoper and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In 1977 he became deputy solo bass of the Bamberger Symphony Orchestra, and in 1978 solo bass of the Bavarian State Orchestra. From 1986 to 1991 he was solo bass of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Since 1991 he is Professor for double bass at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna .


Janis Vakarelis

“One has to keep his name in mind”

- this remark has been the quintessence of many concert reviews since the early eighties. The Greek pianist Janis Vakarelis, who was born in Thessaloniki, passed his examination at the Music Academy of Vienna with honours and afterwards continued his studies with Nikita Magaloff and Maria Curcio. Repeatedly his interpretations have met with outstanding response: “Pianist Vakarelis debut is a triumph” (Chicago Sun), “... a revelation... a mixture of Alfred Brendel's intelligence and Vladimir Ashkenazy's touch.” (Tribune de Geneve). “This was Brahms playing of an extremely high order.” (The Times).

Having received the first prize in the Queen Sofia competition in Madrid in 1979, Janis Vakarelis started a brilliant career as a concert pianist. Many orchestras have invited him to play as a guest with them, such as the Gewanhaus Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, the Stuttgart Philharmonic, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Haifa Symphony, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, the Wiener Kammerorchester.

He has worked together with renowned conductors such as Simon Rattle, Kurt Masur, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Marek Janowski, Walter Weller, Yehudi Menuhin, Witold Rowicki, Andrew Litton, and Jan Pascal Tortelier.

As a soloist, he has played, among other places, at the Berliner Schauspielhaus, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Salzburg Festspielhaus, the Concertgebouw, the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Zuercher Tonhalle, the Victoria Hall in Geneve, the Teatro Real in Madrid and at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.

He regularly gives guest performances at the big music festivals, e.g. in Amsterdam, Athens and Spoleto, at the Berliner Festspiele, the Proms, the Pablo Casals Festival, the Estoril Festival and at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, as well as the Echternach International Festival.

He has also given many chamber music recitals with ensembles and artists such as Heinrich Schiff, Misha Maisky, Vladimir Spivakov, Pierre Amoyal, The Philharmonia Quartet Berlin and the Ensemble Wien.

Janis Vakarelis has been engaged for radio recordings and television appearances in Europe and the United States. He has made many recordings for RPO records and ASV, which earned extraordinary reviews (e.g. the recordings of Liszt's 2nd Piano Concerto and Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Witold Rowicki).

His schedule for the current season includes concerts with the Orchestra de Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the United Philharmonic in Vienna, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in Dublin, two tours with the Orchestre National de France in Slovenia and Spain under Charles Dutoit and Pinchas Steinberg, the Israel Philharmonic under Lorin Maazel, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner, the Philharmonica della Scala under Riccardo Muti, the Helsingborg Symphony in Salzburg, the Swedish Radio Symphony in Stockholm etc.