The Konzerthausorchester Berlin

From 1952 until today: Get to know the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

By Konzerthaus Berlin

Konzerthaus Berlin

The Konzerthausorchester Berlin in the Great Hall (2014) by Marco BorggreveKonzerthaus Berlin

Today, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin can look back on a tradition spanning more than 65 years which is closely linked with Berlin’s eventful history.

Join us in following the orchestra’s special timeline and become acquainted with its principal conductors, historic concerts and current projects.

The Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester (1952) by AnonymKonzerthaus Berlin

The orchestra was founded in 1952 as the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester (BSO) – a municipal institution. Back then, it did not have a fixed rehearsal space or venue. The BSO performed in various halls of East Berlin districts: the Volksbühne, the Metropol Theater, the Audimax of the Humboldt-Universität – and in open-air theatres in the summer. Hermann Hildebrandt, then head of the Stuttgart Philharmonic, was appointed its first principal conductor.

Kurt Sanderling and the BSO by AnonymKonzerthaus Berlin

In 1960, the era of Kurt Sanderling began. The famous conductor moulded the image of the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, which went on to attain international acclaim.

Thanks to his reputation, Kurt Sanderling was able to collaborate with internationally renowned soloists, including David Oistrakh, Emil Gilels and Maurizio Pollini. Major tours followed, which only increased the orchestra’s prestige. Kurt Sanderling, who died in 2011, was an honorary conductor and honorary member of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

Kurt Sanderling directs the BSO by Javier del RealKonzerthaus Berlin

When the Wall was built in Berlin in 1961, the young orchestra faced a challenge: most of its members lived in the western part of the city. Kurt Sanderling only had 28 musicians left in his orchestra. It seems like a miracle today that he was able to continue the season without interruption. Sanderling hired young talents from the four music academies of the GDR, and, with three concert series, laid the foundations for subscription concerts, whose popularity is still evident in the high number of subscribers today.

Kurt Sanderling converses with Dmitri Shostakovich by AnonymKonzerthaus Berlin

Sanderling established the BSO’s Shostakovich tradition, which is still highly regarded today, and is reflected in numerous reference recordings. Where did his expertise come from? After emigrating to Russia in 1936, Kurt Sanderling lived there for 24 years. From 1942 onwards, he was conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic and also taught at the Leningrad Conservatory. It was at this time that he met Shostakovich at the premiere of his Seventh Symphony in Novosibirsk. From this point on, the two enjoyed a close friendship.

The construction site concert under Günther Herbig (1981) by Private archive of the Sanderling familyKonzerthaus Berlin

In 1977, Günther Herbig was appointed principal conductor. Until that point, he had held the same post at the Dresden Philharmonic.

A very special concert under Herbig’s conductorship occurred on 15 October 1981. The reconstruction of the Schauspielhaus on Gendarmenmarkt was still in full swing, but this did not prevent the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester from playing in the shell of the Great Hall for construction workers.

Claus Peter Flor rehearses with the BSO (1984) by AnonymKonzerthaus Berlin

1984 was a defining year for the orchestra. With Claus Peter Flor, it received a new (and at the age of 31, a very young) principal conductor. At the same time, following the completion of the Schauspielhaus, it finally received its own venue. After more than 30 years, its musical home port had finally been found.

The opening concert in the Schauspielhaus (1984) by AnonymKonzerthaus Berlin

On 1 October 1984, the Schauspielhaus was officially inaugurated with a grand opening concert conducted by Claus Peter Flor and Kurt Sanderling. The programme included the overture to Carl Maria von Weber’s “Der Freischütz” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The program of the opening concert in the Konzerthaus Berlin (1984-10-01) by Konzerthaus BerlinKonzerthaus Berlin

The program of the opening concert on 1 October 1984.

Michael Schønwandt conducts the BSO by Jens HübnerKonzerthaus Berlin

From 1992 to 1998, Michael Schønwandt held the post of orchestral principal conductor. During this time, another milestone occurred: in 1994, the Schauspielhaus was renamed the Konzerthaus Berlin. In addition, the BSO officially received the status of House Orchestra after a Senate decision – so the musicians were finally able to feel at home on Gendarmenmarkt!

Eliahu Inbal by Ludwig SchirmerKonzerthaus Berlin

In 2001, the Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal became principal conductor. During his tenure, the orchestra completed several tours in Japan and Asia.

Lothar Zagrosek by Christian NielingerKonzerthaus Berlin

In 2006, a new chapter in the orchestra’s history began. With Lothar Zagrosek, not only did it receive a new conductor, but also a new name. The Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester officially became the Konzerthausorchester Berlin.

The Konzerthaus Kammerorchester with Daniel Hope (centre) (2013) by Markus Nass/BVMIKonzerthaus Berlin

In 2013, the members of the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester together with the British star violinist Daniel Hope were delighted to receive the ECHO Classic award in the category "Classic Music Without Borders". They took home the award for the album "Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons", a reworking of Vivaldi’s "Four Seasons" by the British composer Max Richter.

Iván Fischer in the Great Hall by Marco BorggreveKonzerthaus Berlin

From the 2012/13 to 2017/18 season, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin performed under its honorary conductor Iván Fischer. In line with his reputation as a visionary orchestra leader, he had been inspiring listeners with new concert formats and projects ever since. They offer audiences unexpected perspectives while opening new doors to classical music. With some 100 concerts per season, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin shapes the artistic programme and sound of the concert hall on Gendarmenmarkt.

"Right in the Middle" from above (2014) by Frank LoeschnerKonzerthaus Berlin

The series "Right in the Middle", brought to life in 2014, is a new concert format that goes beyond the traditional concert experience. And the name “Right in the Middle” can be taken literally! For these concerts, the orchestra leaves the stage and plays in the Great Hall auditorium, free of row seats on these occasions. The audience sits between the musicians – true to our motto: Right in the thick of things, not just on the sidelines!

"Conduct us!" on Gendarmenmarkt (2014) by Oliver LangKonzerthaus Berlin

The Konzerthausorchester Berlin musicians would like to invite everyone to share their passion. For example, in request concerts, when the audience determines the programme, or in 2014’s "Conduct us!" concert on Gendarmenmarkt. Here, passers-by picked up the baton to conduct the Konzerthausorchester Berlin themselves.

Iván Fischer (left) and Pál Dárdai (2016) by City PressKonzerthaus Berlin

In a joint clip from February 2016, honorary conductor Iván Fischer and Pál Dárdai, head coach of Hertha BSC, showed that music and football have many similarities. For the initiative "So klingt nur Berlin" ("Only Berlin sounds this way"), they showed what unites fans: experiences that can move and inspire, the unique feeling of being there live, the magic of the moment and a spectacular finale. And behind it all: the incentive to reach peak performance, team spirit, interactive perfection and the passion of a common vision.

Daniel Barenboim, Iván Fischer and Sir Simon Rattle (from left) after the welcome concert (2016) by Monika RittershausKonzerthaus Berlin

"Welcome among us": on 1 March 2016, the Berliner Philharmonic, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Staatskapelle Berlin invited refugees and those who assist them to a special concert in the Philharmonie. The three orchestras, headed by their principal conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Iván Fischer and Daniel Barenboim, welcomed people who had fled from their homelands to Berlin, while thanking the many helpers for their full-time and voluntary activities.

Solo bassoonist Rainer Luft in the currywurst clip (2017) by Screenshot from the clipKonzerthaus Berlin

A rattling Trabant at the Goldelse, the "tuu-tuu-tuu" of the closing S-Bahn doors, sizzling currywurst in Kreuzberg or the soothing chugging of Spree steamboats – the sounds and resonances of Berlin are unique and incomparable. Really? The Konzerthausorchester Berlin underscored its close connection to the city and, with a total of 13 videos, created its own tribute to Berlin. #klangberlins has been on our YouTube channel since mid-January 2017.

Performance of Academy players at the festive dinner for the founding of the Kurt Sanderling Foundation in 2017 by Oliver LangKonzerthaus Berlin

The Kurt Sanderling Academy of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin was founded in 2017. Its namesake is the great principal conductor who was also a pioneer in promoting young talent. The Orchestra Academy is supported by the Ardian Foundation, Zukunft Konzerthaus and other private sponsors. Its project partners are the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas.

Honorary conductor Iván Fischer by Marco BorggreveKonzerthaus Berlin

From the 2018/19 season onwards, Iván Fischer will remain closely linked to the Konzerthausorchester Berlin as its honorary conductor. Over the years, he has launched several programmes, including the series “Mittendrin – Right in the Middle”. He has also realised a compositional project that is particularly close to his heart. His children’s opera “The Gruffelo”, based on Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s well-known storybook, will premiere in January 2019.

Berlin’s Senator of Culture Klaus Lederer, Christoph Eschenbach and Artistic Director Sebastian Nordmann (from left) (2018) by Pablo CastagnolaKonzerthaus Berlin

Christoph Eschenbach, principal conductor from the 2019/20 season, signed his contract at the Konzerthaus Berlin in the presence of the Senator of Culture Klaus Lederer and Artistic Director Sebastian Nordmann.

Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Konzerthausorchester Berlin (2019) by Marco BorggreveKonzerthaus Berlin

Since the beginning of the 2019/20 season Christoph Eschenbach has been the chief conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin: „I was fascinated by the special history of the Konzerthaus Orchestra and its house with its ups and downs that reflects the history of Berlin.” In his first season at the Gendarmenmarkt, Christoph Eschenbach focuses on works by Johannes Brahms.

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