The Berlin Philharmonic, founded as a self-governing orchestra in 1882, is one of the world’s most important ensembles.
The orchestra’s first chief conductor, from 1887 to 1892, was Hans von Bülow, followed by Arthur Nikisch, who extended the repertoire considerably to include works by Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, Ravel and Debussy. His successor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, laid considerable emphasis on Classical and German Romantic works, as well as introducing contemporary compositions by Stravinsky, Bartók and Prokofiev. Herbert von Karajan took up the role of music director in 1955. Under his leadership, the Berlin Philharmonic achieved worldwide success with numerous tours and award-winning recordings. From 1989 to 2002, chief conductor Claudio Abbado explored new musical directions with the orchestra, primarily through contemporary music, a chamber music series and concert performances of operatic works.
He was followed by Simon Rattle, who directed the orchestra from September 2002 until the end of the 2017/18 season. During his tenure, the orchestra also became a foundation, a key aspect of which was the launch of the Berlin Philharmonic’s education programme, through which the orchestra aims to connect with a wider audience, especially young people. In recognition of their work, the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle were named Goodwill Ambassadors by UNICEF in 2007, marking the first time the title had been awarded to an artistic ensemble.
The Berlin Philharmonic played at the Salzburg Easter Festival for the last time in the spring of 2012 and the following year launched a new music festival, the Berlin Philharmonic’s Easter Festival in Baden-Baden. In 2014 they founded their own label, documenting outstanding concerts by the orchestra in editions that satisfy the highest technical and editorial demands. Releases on the label include a complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies under Simon Rattle and an edition documenting his last tour of Asia as chief conductor.
During an orchestra assembly on 21 June 2015, Kirill Petrenko was elected chief conductor designate by a large majority of the members of the Berlin Philharmonic, succeeding Simon Rattle. He takes up office at the beginning of the 2019/20 season.
The Berlin Philharmonic Foundation is generously supported by its main sponsor, Deutsche Bank. Thanks to this support, the Berlin Philharmonic launched the Digital Concert Hall in January 2009, another innovative project, broadcasting the orchestra’s concerts live on the Internet.