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The Berlin Philharmonic (in German: Die Berliner Philharmoniker [pl]), is an orchestra based in Berlinmarker, Germanymarker. 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. Its primary concert venue is the Philharmoniemarker, located in the Kulturforummarker 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 Berlinmarker and a partnership with Deutsche Bank.


Entrance to the concert hall.
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in Berlinmarker 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 Warsawmarker 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 Switzerlandmarker in 1945, Leo Borchard became chief conductor. This arrangement lasted only a few months, as Borchard was accidentally shot and killed by the Americanmarker 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. In 2006, the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic established the Claudio Abbado Composition Prize in Abbado's honour.

Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006

In June 1999, the musicians elected Sir Simon Rattle as their next chief conductor. 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. 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.

In 2006, the orchestra announced it would investigate its role during the Nazi regime. 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. Also in 2007 the documentary film The Reichsorchester by Enrique Sánchez Lansch was released.

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. 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.

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

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.

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

* 1970 - Best Opera Recording - Herbert von Karajan, Helga Dernesch, Thomas Stolze, Jess Thomas, Wagner: Siegfried (DGG, 1969)
* 1979 - Best Orchestral Performance - Herbert von Karajan, Beethoven: Symphonies
* 1993 - Best Orchestral Recording - Leonard Bernstein, Mahler: Symphony No. 9 (DGG, 1992; recording 1979)
* 1995 - Best Chamber Music Performance - Daniel Barenboim, Dale Clevenger, Larry Combs, Daniele Damiano, Hansjörg Schellenberger, Beethoven/Mozart: Quintets (Chicago-Berlin) (1994)
* 1998 - Best Small Ensemble Performance - Claudio Abbado, Hindemith: Kammermusik Nr. 1 mit Finale 1921, Op. 24 No. 1 (with members of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra) (EMI, 1996)
* 2000 - Best Classical Vocal Performance - Claudio Abbado, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Quasthoff: Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn (DGG, 1999)
* 2001 - Best Orchestral Performance - Sir Simon Rattle, Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (EMI, 2000)
* 2007 - Best Instrumental Soloist Performance With Orchestra - Antonio Pappano, Leif Ove Andsnes: Rachmaninov, Piano Concertos 1 & 2 (EMI, 2006)

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

* 2003 - Chorwerkeinspielung - Sir Simon Rattle, Rundfunkchor Berlin, MDR-Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Ernst-Senff-Chor Berlin, Karita Mattila, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Moser, Philip Langridge, Thomas Quasthoff: Schoenberg, Gurrelieder (EMI, 2002)
* 2006 - Musik-DVD Produktion des Jahres - Sir Simon Rattle, Thomas Grube and Enrique Sánchez Lansch (director), Uwe Dierks (producer): Rhythm Is It! (2005)
* 2006 - Sinfonische Einspielung - Claudio Abbado: Mahler, Symphony No. 6 (DGG, 2005)

Timbre de Platine (Platinum Stamp) awarded by Opéra International magazine [22892]

* 1987 - Riccardo Muti, Mozart: Requiem (EMI, 1987)

Current members

The members of the orchestra are:

First violins
  • Guy Braunstein (1st Concertmaster)*
  • Daniel Stabrawa (1st Concertmaster)*
  • Daishin Kashimoto (1st Concertmaster)
  • Tōru Yasunaga (1st Concertmaster, retired)
  • Rainer Sonne (Concertmaster)
  • Zoltán Almási
  • Maja Avramović
  • Simon Bernardini
  • Wolfram Brandl
  • Peter Brem
  • Armin Brunner
  • Andreas Buschatz
  • Alessandro Cappone
  • Madeleine Carruzzo
  • Aline Champion
  • Felicitas Clamor-Hoffmeister
  • Laurentius Dinca
  • Sebastian Heesch
  • Aleksandar Ivić
  • Rüdiger Liebermann
  • Kotowa Machida
  • Helmut Mebert
  • Bastian Schäfer

Second violins
  • Christian Stadelmann (leader of the 2nd Violins)*
  • Thomas Timm (leader of the 2nd Violins)*
  • Daniel Bell
  • Holm Birkholz
  • Stanley Dodds
  • Cornelia Gartemann
  • Amadeus Heutling
  • Christophe Horak
  • Rainer Mehne
  • Christoph von der Nahmer
  • Raimar Orlovsky
  • Bettina Sartorius
  • Rachel Schmidt
  • Armin Schubert
  • Stephan Schulze
  • Christoph Streuli
  • Eva-Maria Tomasi
  • Romano Tommasini

  • Neithard Resa (1st principal)*
  • Naoko Shimizu (principal)
  • Wilfried Strehle (principal)
  • Micha Afkham
  • Julia Gartemann
  • Matthew Hunter
  • Ulrich Knörzer
  • Sebastian Krunnies
  • Walter Küssner
  • Martin von der Nahmer
  • Zdzisław Polonek
  • Martin Stegner
  • Wolfgang Talirz

  • Georg Faust (1st principal)*
  • Ludwig Quandt (1st principal)*
  • Martin Löhr (principal)
  • Olaf Maninger
  • Richard Duven
  • Christoph Igelbrink
  • Solène Kermarrec
  • Stephan Koncz
  • Martin Menking
  • David Riniker
  • Nikolaus Römisch
  • Dietmar Schwalke
  • Knut Weber

Double basses
  • Matthew McDonald (1st principal)*
  • Janne Saksala (1st principal)*
  • Esko Laine (principal bass)
  • Fora Baltacigil
  • Martin Heinze
  • Wolfgang Kohly
  • Peter Riegelbauer
  • Edicson Ruiz
  • Janusz Widzyk
  • Ulrich Wolff

  • Andreas Blau (principal)*
  • Emmanuel Pahud (principal)*
  • Michael Hasel
  • Jelka Weber (Piccolo)



  • Daniel Damiano (principal)*
  • Stefan Schweigert (principal)*
  • Mor Biron
  • Marion Reinhard (double)
  • Markus Weidmann

  • Radek Baborák (principal)*
  • Stefan Dohr (principal)*
  • Stefan de Leval Jezierski
  • Fergus McWilliam
  • Georg Schrekenberger
  • Klaus Wallendorf
  • Sarah Willis

  • Gábor Tarkövi (principal)*
  • Tamás Velenczei (principal)*
  • Thomas Clamor
  • Georg Hilser
  • Guillaume André Jehl
  • Martin Kretzer

  • Christhard Gössling (principal)*
  • Olaf Ott (principal)*
  • Thomas Leyendecker
  • Stefan Schulz
  • Jesper Busk Sörensen

  • Paul Hümpel
  • Alexander von Puttkammer


  • Raphael Häger
  • Simon Rössler
  • Franz Schindlbeck
  • Jan Schlichte

  • 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.

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).


External links

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