North German Radio Symphony Orchestra

The North German Radio Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1945. For more than a quarter of a century it was Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, its first principal conductor, who stamped his artistic profile on the orchestra, and quickly made it well-known far beyond the bounds of the city state of Hamburg. It made its first tour of Germany as early as 1949, and only a year later made its first foreign tour, important politically as well as musically, to Paris. Other major concert tours brought the NDR Symphony Orchestra great international acclaim as one of the leading German symphony orchestras. Conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hans Knappertsbusch, Erich Kleiber, Otto Klemperer, Ferenc Fricsay and Karl Böhm appeared as guest conductors during the Schmidt-Isserstedt era. In addition to maintaining the classical and romantic repertoire, one of the main priorities in the orchestra’s work has always been the presentation of contemporary works. Conductors such as Bruno Maderna, Hans Rosbaud, Pierre Boulez, Michael Gielen and Krzysztof Penderecki, who was a guest conductor for many years from 1988 onwards, conducted important first performances in Hamburg.

After Moshe Atzmon and Klaus Tennstedt, the principal conductors in the 1970s, twenty years of intensive co-operation between the orchestra and Günter Wand gave it a significance such as it had not known since the Schmidt-Isserstedt era. He was appointed its principal conductor in 1982 and soon afterwards, in 1987, its honorary director for life. He dominated the artistic work of the NDR Symphony Orchestra until his death in 2002, bringing it to its apogee with worldwide acclaim for its Bruckner interpretations. Numerous recordings and television productions provide impressive testimony to the extraordinary artistic standing of this collaboration. The series of principal conductors continued in the 1990s, initially with John Eliot Gardiner and Herbert Blomstedt. In 1998 Christoph Eschenbach was appointed to this position, and during his five years with the orchestra recorded major cycles of works such as Mahler’s and Shostakovich’s symphonies. He also devoted himself intensively to contemporary music, which he presented to his audience in concert programmes of innovative design. From 2004 Christoph von Dohnányi has continued the tradition of major conductors leading the NDR Symphony Orchestra, supported by Alan Gilbert as first guest conductor. The NDR Symphony Orchestra holds its own series of subscription concerts in Hamburg, Lübeck, Kiel, and Bremen, and regularly makes guest concert tours to the most important European festivals, appearing on all the major concert stages. It has also earned itself great respect from its tours to Japan, China, South America, and the United States.