For many years, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) has held an internationally recognised position in the front ranks of German radio orchestras and Berlin’s top orchestras. Most recently, from 2001 to 2016, the orchestra’s noteworthy expertise in German Romantic and late Romantic repertoire was cultivated under the leadership of Marek Janowski, culminating in a world-acclaimed ten-part Wagner cycle as well as leaving behind a complete recording of the symphonies of Hans Werner Henze (WERGO, 2014). Janowski‘s predecessor, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, helped raise the orchestra’s standards to an exemplary level in togetherness and developed a full symphonic tone.
In autumn 2017, Vladimir Jurowski took over the reigns as chief conductor and artistic director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Vladimir Jurowski has inherited the orchestra from his predecessor in an excellent state of development, as Jurowski himself never fails to emphasise. Nevertheless, new positive qualities in the orchestral work culture have developed under Jurowski’s tenure, resulting in a more cooperative creative process. At Vladimir Jurowski’s side, the young American conductor Karina Canellakis has been acting as Principal Guest Conductor since 2019.
The history of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin goes back to the first musical hour of the German radio in October 1923. The former principal conductors, including Sergiu Celibidache, Eugen Jochum, Hermann Abendroth, Rolf Kleinert and Heinz Rögner, shaped an ensemble that has endured the vicissitudes of German history in the 20th century in a unique way.
Partners of interest
The RSB has become a top address for outstanding young conductors on the international music scene: Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko, Jakub Hrůša, Alain Altinoglu, Omer Meir Wellber, Alondra de la Parra, Lahav Shani, Karina Canellakis, Thomas Søndergård, Nicholas Carter, Antonello Manacorda and Bernard Labadie. Many of them have made their Berlin debuts with the RSB and have been returning as regular guests. From the middle generation of conductors, Sylvain Cambreling and Jukka-Pekka Saraste will be coming back to conduct the RSB.
Since its foundation in 1923, important contemporary composers have appeared on the podium of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, or have performed their own works as soloists: Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Sergei Prokofiev, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schönberg, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Vogel, Kurt Weill and Alexander Zemlinsky, and more recently, Krzysztof Penderecki, Peter Maxwell Davies, Friedrich Goldmann, Berthold Goldschmidt, Siegfried Matthus, Matthias Pintscher, Peter Ruzicka, Heinz Holliger, Daniel Schnyder, Jörg Widmann, Thomas Adès and Brett Dean.
The post for Composer in Residence at the RSB was occupied in recent years by Brett Dean and Marko Nikodijević. In 2021/2022 the Russian composer Jelena Firssowa follows them.
In addition to symphony and chamber music concerts, radio recordings and CD productions, the orchestra engages with the younger audience through its family and children’s concerts. Numerous musicians commit themselves personally in taking part in chamber music and other ambitious projects for young people. A third of RSB’s activities now consist of projects working with the coming generation, with much of it taking place behind the scenes in non-public spaces. The Verein der Freunde und Förderer des RSB e.V. (Association of Friends and Sponsors of the RSB) is particularly involved in these sustainable, forward-looking activities of the RSB.
The vital “broadcast gene”
Deutschlandradio, with its radio stations Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, is the largest shareholder (40%) of the Rundfunk-Orchester und -Chöre GmbH Berlin (ROC), which was founded in 1994 and institutionally supports the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) and three other orchestras in the German capital. ROC Berlin also relies on strong partners: the Federal Republic of Germany (35%), the State of Berlin (20%) and Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (5%).
All of the RSB’s symphony concerts are broadcast on radio thanks to its close ties to Deutschlandfunk Kultur in Berlin, Deutschlandfunk in Cologne and Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (rbb). Many broadcasts are heard worldwide via the affiliated stations of the European Broadcasting Union (Euroradio). The cooperation with Deutschlandradio continues to yield fruitful results on CD recordings. Five recordings under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski have opened a new chapter in production since 2015, which continues to unfold through excellent live and studio CD recordings. The ten live recordings of the concert cycle of Wagner’s works (2010 to 2013, PENTATONE) under the direction of Marek Janowski earned great acclaim on the international recording market. Production also continues with labels such as Capriccio, cpo, Orfeo, Naxos and Sony Classical. Numerous recordings have been awarded German and international record prizes. The RSB also has a live presence nationally and internationally. For more than 50 years, it has been giving regular guest performances in Japan and Korea as well as at German and European festivals and in musical centres worldwide.