In 1882, 54 ambitious musicians joined to form a new orchestra in Berlin to present concerts over which they themselves were in control. This marked the birth of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. They chose Hans von Bülow, one of the finest conductors of the time, as their leader. His successors included Arthur Nikisch (1895–1922), Wilhelm Furtwängler (1922–54), and Herbert von Karajan (1955-89), who decisively shaped the sound of the orchestra and established its international fame. From 1989 to 2002, Claudio Abbado emphasized new areas of focus, especially contemporary composition. Sir Simon Rattle continued to expand the repertoire from 2002 to 2018 while establishing innovative concert formats. Kirill Petrenko has been chief conductor since 2019. Focal points of his work include the Classical-Romantic repertoire, Russian music, and unjustly forgotten composers. The orchestra reaches out to new audiences through its extensive education program. Since 2022, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Petrenko have been ambassadors of the UNHCR. The Digital Concert Hall has been broadcasting their concerts live online since 2009. In 2014 the orchestra founded its own label: Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings. Once a year, the Berliner Philharmoniker also perform as an opera orchestra at their Easter Festival in Baden-Baden; as of 2026, the festival will again take place in Salzburg where it was originally founded. The Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation is supported by the State of Berlin and the federal government, as well as by the generous commitment of Deutsche Bank as main sponsor.

Lucerne Festival (IMF) on 30 August 1958 playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the direction of Herbert von Karajan.

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March 2024