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.

Bamberg Symphony Orchestra

The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1946 by war refugees, among them former orchestral musicians from Prague. Joseph Keilberth, who had himself worked in Prague, became the orchestra's first chief conductor. From the inaugural concert onwards, he set a musical standard that far exceeded expectations in a town of only 70,000 people. The orchestra gave its first performance abroad in 1949, was invited to perform in the USA in 1954 and to date has over 100 concerts in Japan to its name.

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1949, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra has been named one of the world's finest orchestras on several occasions. It owes much of its reputation to the Musica Viva contemporary music festival founded by K.A. Hartmann and innumerable first performances of new works. High-profile chief conductors such as Eugen Jochum, Rafael Kubelik, Sir Colin Davis, Lorin Maazel and the current incumbent Mariss Jansons have always guaranteed music of the highest quality.

Bavarian State Orchestra

The Bavarian State Orchestra, which plays for the state opera and the state ballet, is Munich's oldest orchestra, with its roots in the Munich court orchestra of the 16th century. A first opera performance in 1653, four Wagner premieres and the introduction of the Munich Opera Festival in 1875 are just three illustrations of its distinguished history. The orchestra's current general music director is American conductor Kent Nagano, who will be succeeded by Kirill Petrenko in 2013.

Berlin Philharmonic

The Berlin Philharmonic, which has won more international awards – including nine Grammys – than any other German symphony orchestra, was formed in 1882 by a group of Berlin amateur musicians. Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Grieg were among its first guest conductors. Its home since 1963 has been the Philharmonie near the Tiergarten. The Berlin Philharmonic enjoys global renown as pioneers of the CD era (under Herbert von Karajan) and as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador (under Sir Simon Rattle).

Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (originally the Berlin Radio Orchestra) came into being in 1925 in the pioneering days of radio. During the early years, composers such as Paul Hindemith, Darius Milhaud, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky were the orchestra's associated guest conductors. After the Second World War, it became the symphony orchestra of East German Radio. Today the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra works together with Deutschlandradio. Since the millennium it has won many awards for its outstanding CD recordings.

Bochum Symphony Orchestra

The Bochum Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1918 and played mainly for the theatre and the opera until the Second World War. Under its current musical director, the American Steven Sloane, the orchestra has recently carved out a highly original profile for itself by collaborating with artists such as Sting and the German entertainer Harald Schmidt and by touring to Israel and the USA. The Bochum Symphony Orchestra is known for its bold concert programming for which it has won several awards.

Dresdner Philharmonic

The Dresden Philharmonic's home is the Kulturpalast but the orchestra also performs in Dresden's churches, the Albertinum museum, the Schauspielhaus theatre and the German Hygiene Museum. Established in 1870, the Dresden Philharmonic has had a glittering career, as the names of its former chief conductors – Carl Schuricht and Kurt Masur among them – clearly testify. The orchestra's more recent history has been punctuated by concert tours to Asia and North, Central and South America as well as the first recording of Schnittke's 9th Symphony (2008).

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