Berlin Philharmonic

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About Berlin Philharmonic

Whenever listeners are asked to rank the world’s best orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic is invariably at or near the top. Formed in 1882, the orchestra had relatively humble beginnings, playing its first concerts in an open-air restaurant. The Philharmonic’s artistic standards quickly flourished, however, and the orchestra’s 1913 recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (1808) with conductor Arthur Nikisch raised its profile internationally. Nikisch was succeeded in 1922 by the visionary Wilhelm Furtwängler, whose Berlin recordings chart a period of intense and sometimes apocalyptic music-making. The tangled compromises made by Furtwängler and the Philharmonic to keep performing during the Nazi regime are still today the subject of debate. In the postwar period, Herbert von Karajan’s 33-year reign as principal conductor brought new levels of plushness, power, and tonal sophistication to the Philharmonic’s sound, and huge commercial success for its recordings. Since then, his successors—Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle, and current chief conductor Kirill Petrenko who arrived in 2019—have expanded the Philharmonic’s repertoire significantly beyond the core Austro-German classics. Petrenko has defined his tenure through his championing of Russian and lesser-known repertoire and, like Rattle before him, an emphasis on music education. The orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall, launched in 2009, is another important innovation. Enabling online access to live and archived concerts, it marks a confident expansion of the Philharmonic’s global footprint. In 2014, the orchestra launched its own label, Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings.

Berlin, Germany
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