Berlin Philharmonic

A creative partnership of more than a century with the Berlin Philharmonic

By Deutsche Grammophon

Alfred Hertz & Berlin Philharmonic (1913)Deutsche Grammophon

The Beginning of the Partnership

The artistic partnership between the Berlin Philharmonic and Deutsche Grammophon goes back a long way – to September 1913, to be precise, when the orchestra, under Alfred Hertz, recorded orchestral extracts from Wagner’s “Parsifal”.

Arthur Nikisch in the old Philharmonie (1913)Deutsche Grammophon

These were followed in November of that year by the first complete recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, with Arthur Nikisch conducting. It was originally released on eight sides of shellac.

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1953) by © Historical Archive of the Wiener PhilharmonikerDeutsche Grammophon

Wilhelm Furtwängler, the Philharmonic’s third chief conductor, made his first recording with the orchestra in October 1926. As with Nikisch, the work selected was Beethoven’s Fifth. In 1929 Furtwängler returned to the studio to record works by Mendelssohn, Bach and Schubert.

Philharmonie during the war (1944)Deutsche Grammophon

The Dark Days

The Philharmonie was destroyed in a bombing raid on 30 January 1944, but the orchestra itself survived the war. Between 1939 and 1945 it made many appearances in other countries and succeeded in maintaining its artistic integrity. 

Sergiu Celibidache & Berlin Philharmonic (1946)Deutsche Grammophon

Sergiu Celibidache conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the destroyed old Philharmonie, late 1940s.

Ferenc Fricsay (1960) by © Hugo Jehle / DGDeutsche Grammophon

Post-war Progress

The first post-war collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon came in 1949, when Hungarian conductor Ferenc Fricsay, then at the start of a major international career, recorded Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with the orchestra.

Eugen Jochum's daughter talking about Eugen JochumDeutsche Grammophon

1950 saw the start of a new chapter in the orchestra’s history as it began to make an increasing number of recordings. A series of visiting guest conductors played leading roles in this process. Eugen Jochum began recording with the Philharmonic in 1951, setting down symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner over the years, while in 1952 Karl Böhm joined the long list of conductors who recorded with the orchestra.

The New Berlin Philharmonie (1963)Deutsche Grammophon

The New Philharmonie

Work towards building a new home for the orchestra had begun in 1949, when the Gesellschaft der Freunde der Berliner Philharmonie (Society of Friends of the Berlin Philharmonie) was created to raise funds. Construction of the new Philharmonie started in 1961.

Inauguration Concert of Berlin Philharmonie (1963)Deutsche Grammophon

The concert hall was inaugurated on 15 October 1963, with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

Christa Ludwig, Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan: Gustav Mahler - Kindertotenlieder - In diesem Wetter

The Philharmonie today

Berlin Philharmonic & Herbert von Karajan (1983) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

Von Karajan’s Vision

No name is as closely associated with the recording history of the Berlin Philharmonic as that of Herbert von Karajan. His recording of Richard Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben” dates from March 1959 and marks the start of what was arguably the most productive chapter in the partnership between the orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon.

Herbert von Karajan (1972) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan: Johann Strauss II - Die Fledermaus Kaiserwalzer, Op.437

Under Karajan the orchestra acquired a unique and worldwide media presence. No other conductor understood the demands of the globally expanding music industry as well as Karajan, with his particular ideas on how music should sound and how it should be disseminated.

Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle, Krystian Zimerman: Johannes Brahms - Piano Concerto No. 1 (1976) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

After Karajan

Sir Simon Rattle, who took over as the orchestra’s sixth chief conductor in 2002, is under exclusive contract to EMI, with the result that his name plays a smaller role in the orchestra’s discography for Deutsche Grammophon.

Gustavo Dudamel, Berlin Philharmonic: The European Concert (2012)Deutsche Grammophon

The latest conductor to champion the association between the Berlin Philharmonic and Deutsche Grammophon is Gustavo Dudamel, who was born in Venezuela in 1981. He conducted the orchestra for the first time in 2008. He also conducted the 2012 European Concert in Vienna.

Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan (1977) by © Siegfried LauterwasserDeutsche Grammophon

A Long and Successful Creative Partnership

The Berlin Philharmonic and Deutsche Grammophon: the two names are inextricably linked. The recordings they have made together since 1913 take in both mainstream works and rarities, in repertoire ranging from the Baroque to the present day. This hugely productive and successful partnership has now lasted over a century and shows every sign of continuing to flourish for the foreseeable future.

Credits: Story

Text by: Helge Grünewald

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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