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Classic FM Drive with Nicholas Owen 4pm - 7pm
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the most popular, acclaimed and well-respected orchestras in the world. Attracting only the finest soloists and conductors for well over 100 years, we delve into this incredible orchestra's history.
Originally going under the name of Frühere Bilsesche Kapelle ('Former Bilse's Band'), the founding group of 54 musicians ditched their conductor Benjamin Bilse after he dared to book them on a fourth-class train to Warsaw for a concert. Here's what they look like today.
The first conductor of the newly-established Berlin Philharmonic was Ludwig Von Brenner, who led them in their first performances in Berlin in 1882. The principal conductor post was then taken up by Hans Von Bulow, pictured, in 1887.
As the orchestra's reputation grew throughout the 1880s and 1890s, guest conductors included such giant figures as Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler (pictured), Johannes Brahms and Edvard Grieg.
1895 saw Arthur Nikisch become the orchestra's principal conductor, and the recipient of glowing endorsements from Brahms. Describing Nikisch's interpretation of his fourth symphony, he commented: "It's impossible to hear it any better."
The orchestra's concert hall was destroyed in 1944, leaving the ensemble without a concert venue of its own until 1963.
Wilhelm Furtwängler's tenure as principal conductor of the Berlin Phil is made up of two chunks - the first was from 1922-1945, but Furtwängler fled to Switzerland amid much controversy and under pressure from the Nazi party.
Sadly, Furtwängler's replacement Leo Borchard was accidentally shot dead by an American soldier in 1945. After the seven-year tenure of Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache (pictured) was over in 1952, Furtwängler returned as principal until his death two years later.
1963 was an important year for the Berlin Philharmonic, as it saw them move into their new concert venue, the Philharmonie. However, in 2008 a fire broke out and damaged parts of the roof, meaning it was out of action for several months. The orchestra continues to play there today.
Perhaps the best-known and most notorious conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Karajan was responsible for some of the orchestra's best-known recordings. He was a pivotal figure in the orchestra's history, and delivered definitive performances of the Beethoven symphonies among many others. He held the post until his death in 1989, 35 years after taking it on.
In 1989, Italian Claudio Abbado brought the Berlin Philharmonic's repertoire right up to date, showcasing a variety of 20th Century works during his 13-year stay. Memorable performances include challenging works by Schoenberg and Stockhausen among many others.
2002 saw Sir Simon Rattle become the first British principal conductor of one of the world's greatest orchestras. Part of his accepting the post meant that the orchestra was turned into a public foundation, capable of making its own financial and artistic decisions.
In 2008, the orchestra unveiled its virtual concert hall, which allows music lovers access to Berlin Philharmonic concerts from the comfort of their own home. There's also a massive archive section on the concert hall's website, allowing you to enjoy Sir Simon Rattle and company from the comfort of your living room.