Classical orchestras – a grand tradition

There are currently around 50 grand symphony orchestras in Germany – and about as many chamber and youth orchestras. The history of these ensembles goes back decades, if not centuries. Great composers, conductors and soloists have all contributed to the success of Germany's orchestras.
German Symphony Orchestra Berlin

The German Symphony Orchestra Berlin was founded in 1946 as the radio orchestra of RIAS, a West Berlin broadcasting station. It was financed by the USA until 1953 and from 1956 it also worked with Radio Free Berlin. The orchestra's first chief conductor, the Austrian Ferenc Fricsay, laid the foundations for the orchestra's very contemporary repertoire. Performing mainly in the Berlin Philharmonie, the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin has premiered works by many composers including György Ligeti and John Adams.

Hamburg Philharmonic

From its foundation in 1828, the Hamburg Philharmonic Concert Society was the city's musical powerhouse. After merging with the Hamburg Opera Orchestra in 1933, the Hamburg Philharmonic rose to international standing under chief conductors such as Eugen Jochum, Joseph Keilberth, Wolfgang Sawallisch and Ingo Metzmacher. Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky appeared with the orchestra as guest conductors, and its calibre is reflected in contemporary premieres (e.g. Luigi Nono, Mauricio Kagel) and tours to many countries including Japan.

Hessen Radio Symphony Orchestra

The Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, which later became the Hessen Radio Symphony Orchestra, was established in 1929. Even in the early days, it was strongly committed to contemporary music, giving the first performance of works by Hindemith, Weill, Schoenberg, Strauss and Bartók, and resolutely continuing this tradition after the Second World War. Thanks to the orchestra's long-serving chief conductor Eliahu Inbal and his current successor Paavo Järvi, the music of Bruckner and Mahler has also been given great prominence in Frankfurt.

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is both the world's largest professional orchestra and Germany's oldest orchestra with civic rather than royal origins. It has performed with greats such as Mozart, Chopin, Schumann and Wagner, and premiered many symphonic works by composers from Beethoven to Schnittke. The orchestra's current kapellmeister , its 19th since the post was introduced in 1781, is the Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly.

MDR Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra was established in 1923 and began working with the recently launched local radio station the following year. In 1946 it became the MDR Radio Orchestra, one of whose functions was to play for the former East Germany's DEFA films. The orchestra has enjoyed a glittering history, performing premieres of works by Weill, Dessau, Penderecki and Stockhausen and receiving numerous awards for its recordings. Today the MDR Symphony Orchestra can be heard at the Gewandhaus concert hall, the MDR Summer of Music and around the city of Leipzig.

Munich Philharmonic

The Munich Philharmonic was founded in 1893. Its home until 1944 was its own concert hall on Türkenstrasse, where several Mahler and Bruckner premieres were performed. In 1985 the orchestra took up residence at the Philharmonie in the Gasteig – under famous chief conductors such as Sergiu Celibidache, James Levine, Christian Thielemann and (from 2012) Lorin Maazel. On many occasions the Munich Philharmonic has been Germany's official musical ambassador abroad.

NDR Symphony Orchestra

The NDR Symphony Orchestra, Radio Hamburg's inhouse orchestra, was established in 1945. By 1950 it was making its first guest appearance abroad. Big-name chief conductors such as Klaus Tennstedt, Günter Wand, John Eliot Gardiner, Christoph Eschenbach and Christoph Dohnanyi in turn maintained consistently high standards. The orchestra regularly performs not only in the Laeiszhalle but also at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and in concert series in Lübeck, Kiel and Wismar. Its new home will be the Elbe Philharmonic Hall.

Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

The history of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra dates back to 1945, when the then American-run Stuttgart Radio acquired its own orchestra. In addition to high-calibre chief conductors such as Sergiu Celibidache, Sir Neville Marriner and Sir Roger Norrington, there have been many famous guest conductors including the composers Stravinsky, Boulez and Penderecki. The Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra regularly performs at the Schwetzingen Festival and has frequently travelled to Asia, its 2010 tour being its ninth visit.

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