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Berliner Philharmoniker

Background information
Also known as Berlin Philharmonic
Origin Berlin, Germany
Genres Classical
Occupations Symphony orchestra
Years active 1887-present
Principal Conductor
Simon Rattle
András Schiff
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Former members
Ludwig von Brenner
Notable instruments
Concert Organ
Karl Schuke, Berlin IV-72

The Berlin Philharmonic (in German: Die Berliner Philharmoniker [pl]), is an orchestra based in Berlin, Germany. In 2006, a group of ten European media outlets voted the Berlin Philharmonic number three on a list of "top ten European Orchestras", after the Vienna Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,[1] while in 2008 it was voted the world's number two orchestra in a survey among leading international music critics organized by the British magazine Gramophone (behind the Concertgebouw).[2] Its primary concert venue is the Philharmonie, located in the Kulturforum area of the city. Since 2002, its principal conductor is Sir Simon Rattle. The BPO also supports several chamber music ensembles. The funding for the organization is subsidized by the city of Berlin and a partnership with Deutsche Bank.



Entrance to the concert hall.

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in Berlin in 1882 by 54 musicians under the name Frühere Bilsesche Kapelle (literally, "Former Bilse's Band"); the group broke away from their previous conductor Benjamin Bilse after he announced his intention of taking the band on a fourth-class train to Warsaw for a concert. The orchestra was renamed and reorganized under the financial management of Hermann Wolff in 1887. Their new conductor was Ludwig von Brenner; in 1887 Hans von Bülow, one of the most esteemed conductors in the world, took over the post. This helped to establish the orchestra's international reputation, and guests Hans Richter, Felix von Weingartner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Johannes Brahms and Edvard Grieg conducted the orchestra over the next few years. Programmes of this period show that the orchestra possessed only 46 strings, much less than the Wagnerian ideal of 64.

In 1895, Arthur Nikisch became chief conductor, and was succeeded in 1923 by Wilhelm Furtwängler. Despite several changes in leadership, the orchestra continued to perform throughout World War II. After Furtwängler fled to Switzerland in 1945, Leo Borchard became chief conductor. This arrangement lasted only a few months, as Borchard was accidentally shot and killed by the American forces occupying Berlin. Sergiu Celibidache then took over as chief conductor for seven years, from 1945 to 1952. Furtwängler returned in 1952 and conducted the orchestra until his death in 1954.

His successor was Herbert von Karajan, who led the orchestra from 1955 until his resignation in April 1989, only months before his death. Under him, the orchestra made a vast number of recordings and toured widely, growing and gaining fame.

Claudio Abbado became principal conductor after Karajan, expanding the orchestra's repertoire beyond the core classical and romantic works into more modern 20th century works. He stepped down from this post in 2002 to conduct the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. During the post-unification period, the orchestra encountered financial problems resulting from budgetary stress in the city of Berlin.[3] In 2006, the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic established the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize in Abbado's honour.[4]

Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006

In June 1999, the musicians elected Sir Simon Rattle as their next chief conductor.[5] Rattle made it a condition of his signing with the Berlin Philharmonic that it be turned into a self-governing public foundation, with the power to make its own artistic and financial decisions. This required a change to state law, which was approved in 2001, allowing him to join the organization in 2002. Rattle's contract with the orchestra was initially through 2012. In April 2008, the BPO musicians voted in favour of retaining Rattle as their chief conductor.[6] The current artistic director of the orchestra is Pamela Rosenberg. In April 2008, the orchestra announced that Rosenberg would not continue as artistic director after the expiration of her contract in 2010.[7]

In 2006, the orchestra announced it would investigate its role during the Nazi regime.[8] In 2007, Misha Aster published The Reich's Orchestra, his study of the relationship of the Berlin Philharmonic to the rulers of the Third Reich.[9] Also in 2007 the documentary film The Reichsorchester by Enrique Sánchez Lansch was released.[10]

The first concert hall of the orchestra was destroyed in 1944. Since 1963, the orchestra has been resident at the Philharmonie, which was constructed from 1960-1963, following the design of architect Hans Scharoun. On 20 May 2008, a fire broke out at the Philharmonie. One-quarter of the roof underwent considerable damage as firefighters cut openings to reach the flames beneath the roof.[11] [12] The hall interior also sustained water damage, but was otherwise "generally unharmed." The firefighters limited damage by the use of foam. The orchestra was restricted from use of the hall for concerts until June 2008.[13]

UNICEF appointed the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle as Goodwill Ambassadors in November 2007.[14]

On 18 December 2008 the Orchestra announced the creation of a Digital Concert Hall: this new Internet platform will enable music fans all over the world to see and hear the Philharmonic’s concerts – live or on demand.[15]

Principal conductors

Awards and recognition

Classical BRIT Awards
  • 2001 - "Ensemble/Orchestral Album of the Year" - Sir Simon Rattle, Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (EMI, 2000)
  • 2003 - "Ensemble/Orchestral Album of the Year" - Sir Simon Rattle, Mahler: Symphony No. 5 (EMI, 2002)
Grammy Awards
Gramophone Awards
  • 1981 - "Opera Recording of the Year" - Herbert von Karajan, Wagner: Parsifal (DGG, 1980)
  • 1981 - "Orchestral Record of the Year" - Herbert von Karajan, Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (DGG, 1980)
  • 1984 - "Record of the Year" - Herbert von Karajan, Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (DGG, 1984; live recording 1982)
  • 2000 - "Orchestral Record of the Year" - Sir Simon Rattle, Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (EMI, 2000)
  • 2004 - "Concerto" - Mariss Jansons, Leif Ove Andsnes, Grieg: Piano Concerto and Schumann: Piano Concerto (EMI, 2004)
  • 2006 - "Record of the Year" - Claudio Abbado, Mahler: Symphony No. 6 (DGG, 2005)
ECHO (formerly Deutscher Schallplattenpreis) of Deutsche Phono-Akademie
Timbre de Platine (Platinum Stamp) awarded by Opéra International magazine [1]
  • 1987 - Riccardo Muti, Mozart: Requiem (EMI, 1987)

Current members

The members of the orchestra as of September 2009 are:[16]

First violins
  • Israel Guy Braunstein (1st Concertmaster)*
  • Poland Daniel Stabrawa (1st Concertmaster)*
  • Japan Daishin Kashimoto (1st Concertmaster)
  • Japan Tōru Yasunaga (1st Concertmaster, retired)
  • Germany Rainer Sonne (Concertmaster)
  • Hungary Zoltán Almási
  • Serbia Maja Avramović
  • Italy Simon Bernardini
  • Germany Wolfram Brandl
  • Germany Peter Brem
  • Switzerland Armin Brunner
  • Germany Andreas Buschatz
  • Luxembourg Alessandro Cappone
  • Switzerland Madeleine Carruzzo
  • Switzerland Aline Champion
  • Germany Felicitas Clamor-Hoffmeister
  • Romania Laurentius Dinca
  • Germany Sebastian Heesch
  • Croatia Aleksandar Ivić
  • Germany Rüdiger Liebermann
  • Japan Kotowa Machida
  • Germany Helmut Mebert
  • Germany Bastian Schäfer
Second violins
  • Germany Christian Stadelmann (leader of the 2nd Violins)*
  • Germany Thomas Timm (leader of the 2nd Violins)*
  • United Kingdom Daniel Bell
  • Germany Holm Birkholz
  • Australia Canada Stanley Dodds
  • Germany Cornelia Gartemann
  • Germany Amadeus Heutling
  • Switzerland Christophe Horak
  • Germany Rainer Mehne
  • Germany Christoph von der Nahmer
  • Germany Raimar Orlovsky
  • Switzerland Bettina Sartorius
  • Israel Germany Rachel Schmidt
  • United States Armin Schubert
  • Germany Stephan Schulze
  • Switzerland Christoph Streuli
  • Austria Eva-Maria Tomasi
  • Luxembourg Romano Tommasini
  • Germany Neithard Resa (1st principal)*
  • Japan Naoko Shimizu (principal)
  • Germany Wilfried Strehle (principal)
  • Germany Micha Afkham
  • Germany Julia Gartemann
  • United States Matthew Hunter
  • Germany Ulrich Knörzer
  • Germany Sebastian Krunnies
  • Germany Walter Küssner
  • Germany Martin von der Nahmer
  • Poland Zdzisław Polonek
  • Germany Martin Stegner
  • Germany Wolfgang Talirz
  • Germany Georg Faust (1st principal)*
  • Germany Ludwig Quandt (1st principal)*
  • Germany Martin Löhr (principal)
  • Germany Olaf Maninger
  • Germany Richard Duven
  • Germany Christoph Igelbrink
  • France Solène Kermarrec
  • Austria Stephan Koncz
  • Germany Martin Menking
  • Switzerland David Riniker
  • Germany Nikolaus Römisch
  • Germany Dietmar Schwalke
  • Austria Knut Weber
Double basses
  • Australia Matthew McDonald (1st principal)*
  • Finland Janne Saksala (1st principal)*
  • Finland Esko Laine (principal bass)
  • Turkey Fora Baltacigil
  • Germany Martin Heinze
  • Poland Germany Wolfgang Kohly
  • Germany Peter Riegelbauer
  • Venezuela Edicson Ruiz
  • Poland Janusz Widzyk
  • Germany Ulrich Wolff
  • Germany Andreas Blau (principal)*
  • Switzerland Emmanuel Pahud (principal)*
  • Germany Michael Hasel
  • Germany Jelka Weber (Piccolo)
  • Italy Daniel Damiano (principal)*
  • Germany Stefan Schweigert (principal)*
  • Israel Mor Biron
  • Germany Marion Reinhard (double)
  • Germany Markus Weidmann
  • Czech Republic Radek Baborák (principal)*
  • Germany Stefan Dohr (principal)*
  • United States Stefan de Leval Jezierski
  • United Kingdom Fergus McWilliam
  • Germany Georg Schrekenberger
  • Germany Klaus Wallendorf
  • United States Sarah Willis
  • Hungary Gábor Tarkövi (principal)*
  • Hungary Tamás Velenczei (principal)*
  • Germany Thomas Clamor
  • Germany Georg Hilser
  • Guillaume André Jehl
  • Germany Martin Kretzer
  • Germany Christhard Gössling (principal)*
  • Germany Olaf Ott (principal)*
  • Germany Thomas Leyendecker
  • Germany Stefan Schulz
  • Denmark Jesper Busk Sörensen
  • Germany Paul Hümpel
  • Germany Alexander von Puttkammer
  • Germany Raphael Häger
  • Germany Simon Rössler
  • Germany Franz Schindlbeck
  • Germany Jan Schlichte
  • France Marie-Pierre Langlamet

* denotes current soloists

In popular culture

The soundtrack album for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey offers a version of Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra performed by the BPO conducted by Karl Böhm. (The version used in the movie itself was by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Karajan, uncredited, but copyright owner Decca Records didn't want to be associated with science-fiction.)

The BPO participated in playing heavy metal music with the German band Scorpions, on their 2000 album Moment of Glory.[17]

Members of the BPO participated with experimental metal band, The Ocean on several albums; Fluxion, Aeolian and Precambrian.

The relationship between the BPO and the Nazi regime is the subject of the movie: "Taking Sides".

See also


  • Annemarie Kleinert: Music at its Best: The Berlin Philharmonic. From Karajan to Rattle, BoD Publishing Company, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 978-3-83706-361-5 (see here).


  1. ^ (Playbill Arts) Matthew Westphal, "The Top Ten European Orchestras, According to Ten European Media Outlets", 10 October 2006. Accessed 30 May 2008.
  2. ^ Tom Huizenga (2008-11-21). "Chicago Symphony Tops U.S. Orchestras". NPR. Retrieved 2009-01-08.  
  3. ^ Kate Connolly (1999-11-10). "Band of no gold". The Guardian.,,255048,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  4. ^ Matthew Westphal (2006-11-06). "Berlin Philharmonic Names Winner of First Claudio Abbado Composition Prize". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-09-01.  
  5. ^ Andrew Clements (1999-06-24). "Picking up the baton". The Guardian.,,288989,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  6. ^ Charlotte Higgins (2008-04-29). "Berlin Philharmonic keeps Rattle". The Guardian.,,2276770,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-30.  
  7. ^ Catherine Hickley (2008-04-24). "Rosenberg Will Leave Berlin Philharmonic; Rattle Negotiates". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2008-04-28.  
  8. ^ Agence France-Presse (2007-05-01). "Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to probe Nazi-era history". European Jewish Express. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  9. ^ Tony Paterson (2007-08-28). "Berlin Philharmonic 'was obedient servant of Hitler'". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-09-01.  
  10. ^ Das Reichsorchester at the Internet Movie Database.
  11. ^ Kate Connolly (2008-05-21). "Musicians flee Philharmonic fire in Berlin". The Guardian.,,2281162,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  12. ^ Nicholas Kulish and Daniel J. Wakin (2008-05-21). "Fire Under Control at Home of Berlin Philharmonic". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  13. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (2008-05-22). "Hall Interior in Berlin Intact After Fire". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-22.  
  14. ^ UNICEF: UNICEF appoints Berliner Philharmoniker Goodwill Ambassador 2007-11-17.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Berliner Philharmoniker: Orchestra. Retrieved 2009-09-07
  17. ^ Michael Custodis, chapter: Moment of Glory - The Scorpions und die Berliner Philharmoniker; Innovationspotenziale. Heiner Goebbels Surrogate Cities bei Zukunft@BPhil, in: Klassische Musik heute. Eine Spurensuche in der Rockmusik, Bielefeld transcript-Verlag 2009 ISBN 978-3-8376-1249-3

External links



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