The orchestra’s varied history has been significantly influenced by the political and social events and upheavals of the 20th century.
In 1907 the Vienna Tonkunstler Orchestra consisting of 83 musicians gave its first concert at the Vienna Musikverein, with such notable conductors as one of Dvořák’s students, Oskar Nedbal, Hans Pfitzner and Bernhard Stavenhagen, a student of Franz Liszt.
In 1913 the Tonkunstler gave the first performance of Arnold Schönberg’s «Gurre-Lieder» under the direction of Franz Schreker. Its Principal Conductor from 1919 to 1923 was Wilhelm Furtwängler. In the years that followed, the orchestra worked with conductors such as Bruno Walter, Otto Klemperer, Felix Weingartner, Hans Knappertsbusch and Hermann Abendroth.
Since 1945 the Tonkunstler have been the state symphony orchestra of Lower Austria since 1945. Year after year they have fulfilled the cultural, artistic and educational responsibilities of this position with their extensive range of concerts at numerous venues across the region, including the New Year’s concert series, through music outreach projects and their commitment to contemporary music in Lower Austria. In 2003 the Tonkunstler were the first Austrian orchestra to establish a department for music education. The «Tonspiele» are now one of Austria’s most extensive programmes of musical education.