With almost 450 years of tradition, the Staatskapelle Berlin is one of the oldest orchestras in the world. Originally founded as a court orchestra by Prince-Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg in 1570, and at first solely dedicated to carrying out musical services for the court, the ensemble expanded its activities with the founding of the Royal Court Opera in 1742 by Frederick the Great. Ever since, the orchestra has been closely tied to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
Many important musicians have conducted the orchestra: Gaspare Spontini, Felix Mendelssohn, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Felix Weingartner, Richard Strauss, Erich Kleiber, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Franz Konwitschny, and Otmar Suitner are just a few of the conductors who have influenced the instrumental and interpretive culture of the Staatskapelle Berlin. The works of Richard Wagner--who himself conducted the Königlich Preußische Hofkapelle in 1844 at the premiere of Der fliegende Holländer and in 1876 during preparations for the Berlin premiere of Tristan und Isolde--have represented a pillar of the repertoire of the Staatsoper and its orchestra for some time.
Daniel Barenboim has served as the orchestra's general music director since 1992, and in 2000 the orchestra voted him chief conductor for life. The orchestra has received acclaim worldwide for its performances in the great European music centers, as well as in Israel, Japan, China, and North and South America. Highlights of recent seasons include performances of the symphonies and piano concertos of Beethoven in Vienna, Paris, London, New York, and Tokyo; cycles of the Schumann and Brahms symphonies; a 10-part cycle of Wagner's stage works; a three-part performance of Wagner's Ring cycle in Japan; and a 10-part cycle of the symphonies and orchestral songs of Mahler. Concert tours in recent years have taken the orchestra to Bucharest, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Milan, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Helsinki, Basel, Tokyo, Sendai, Osaka, Nagoya, Kawasaki, Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Shanghai.
The Staatskapelle Berlin was named Orchestra of the Year in 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008 by the journal Opernwelt, and in 2003 the orchestra was awarded the Furtwängler Prize. The orchestra's recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies in 2002 was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque; its 2003 recording of Wagner's Tannhäuser won a Grammy Award; and its 2007 live recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 9 was awarded an Echo Prize. The ensemble's most recent recordings include Elgar's symphonies nos. 1 and 2, Strauss's Four Last Songs (with Anna Netrebko) and Ein Heldenleben, and the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concertos with Lisa Batiashvili, all conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
In the Orchesterakademie, founded in 1997, young musicians receive the opportunity to gather professional experience in both opera and concert performance, mentored by members of the Staatskapelle. Furthermore, many musicians volunteer at Musikkindergarten Berlin, an initiative of Daniel Barenboim. Staatskapelle members also dedicate themselves to working in chamber music formations as well as in the ensemble Preußens Hofmusik, which focuses primarily on Berlin's rich musical tradition since the 18th century. Visit staatskapelle-berlin.de for more information.
Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He received his first piano lessons from his mother at age five. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. At the age of seven, he gave his first public concert in Buenos Aires. In 1952, he moved with his parents to Israel.
Mr. Barenboim made his international debut at age 10 with concerts in Vienna and Rome, followed by performances in Paris in 1955, in London in 1956, and in New York in 1957 under Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has regularly toured Europe, the US, South America, Australia, and the Far East.
Since making his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Mr. Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. He was principal conductor of the Orchestre de Paris from 1975 to 1989, and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1991 to 2006. Upon his departure, the musicians of the orchestra named him honorary conductor for life. Since 1992, Mr. Barenboim has been general music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden. In 2000, the Staatskapelle Berlin appointed him chief conductor for life. In the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Barenboim began a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and between 2011 and 2014 was music director of the famous opera house.
In 1999, Mr. Barenboim, together with Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said, established the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. He also initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories, which includes a music conservatory and a music kindergarten. Since 2015, talented young musicians from the Middle East have studied at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, another initiative founded by Mr. Barenboim. In the fall of 2016, this university for music and humanities--housed in the former stage depot of the Staatsoper--started enrolling students in a four-year bachelor program. Also housed in the same building as the academy is the Frank Gehry-designed Pierre Boulez Hall, which will enrich Berlin's musical life beginning in March 2017.
Mr. Barenboim is the recipient of numerous awards honoring his peace efforts, and has published a number of books. Visit danielbarenboim.com for more information.