The Berliner Philharmoniker was founded in 1882 as a self-governing body and has long been considered one of the world’s finest orchestras. Its current chief conductor and artistic director is Sir Simon Rattle, who took up his appointment in September 2002. The orchestra gave its first concert on October 17, 1882, under the conductor Ludwig von Brenner, who was chosen by the musicians themselves.
The concert agent Hermann Wolff took over the management of the orchestra in 1887 and signed up the conductor Hans von Bülow, who went on to turn the Berliner Philharmoniker into one of the leading orchestras in Germany. Under Arthur Nikisch (1895–1922) its repertory grew to include works by Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, Ravel, and Debussy. On Nikisch’s death, the then 36-year-old Wilhelm Furtwängler took over as principal conductor. At the end of the Second World War, Leo Borchard became the orchestra’s principal conductor, but, following his tragic death in August 1945, when he was accidentally shot by an American patrol, the young Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache became artistic director.
Furtwängler was able to resume his old post as chief conductor following his denazification in 1952. When he died in 1954, the players chose Herbert von Karajan as their permanent conductor and artistic director. During the decades that followed, Karajan worked with the orchestra to develop a unique tonal quality and performing style that made the Berliner Philharmoniker famous all over the world. In October 1989, the players appointed Claudio Abbado their new principal conductor.
With the appointment of Sir Simon Rattle, the orchestra succeeded in introducing a number of important innovations. The orchestra’s change of status to a charitable foundation (the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker) has created new opportunities and ensured the economic future of a body of players that currently has 129 full-time members. The foundation is supported by the generosity of its principal sponsor, Deutsche Bank. Central to this support is the orchestra’s education program Zukunft@BPhil, which was set up at the time of Sir Simon Rattle’s appointment and is intended to ensure that the orchestra reaches a broader and, above all, younger audience.
© 2001–2007 Carnegie Hall Corporation