The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic

The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic celebrate a milestone anniversary as they mark their 40th year in 2012. A chance encounter led to their founding: In 1972 the Philharmonic’s cello section was engaged for a radio performance of Julius Klengel’s Hymnus for 12 Celli. The attractive sound of this particular formation and the musical perspectives it opened up seemed so full of possibility that the musicians immediately decided to organize a permanent ensemble. To this day their personnel is drawn from the ranks of the Philharmonic; younger colleagues who are new to the orchestra are immediately enlisted as members of the “12.” Boris Blacher was the first contemporary composer to write a new work for the ensemble; since then, such composers as Jean Françaix, Iannis Xenakis, Günter Bialas, Wolfgang Rihm, Brett Dean, Frangis Ali-Sade, Tan Dun, and Kaija Saariaho have written original works for the 12 Cellists. Sofia Gubaidulina has added to this impressive lineup with her composition Labyrinth, which they premiered in 2011 at LUCERNE FESTIVAL. The 12 Cellists are also pioneers in the area of “crossover” music. They perform arrangements of songs by the Beatles, spirituals, numbers from musicals, jazz compositions, and film scores, thus offering a diversity in their programming that appeals to audiences outside the classical world as well. Not surprisingly, they have been recognized for this twice by Echo Klassik Awards. Along with concertizing around the world, the 12 Cellists are committed to fundraising for people in need and serve as prominent musical ambassadors for Berlin: the “12” have played for the American President, have accompanied the German President on state visits, and have been guests of the Japanese imperial couple on several occasions.

LUCERNE FESTIVAL (IMF) debut on 30 August 1980 in works by David Funk, Julius Klengel, Helmut Eder, Rudolf Kelterborn, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Boris Blacher.

August 2012