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  • Photo: Julika Friess
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The Orchestra of the Hansa City

The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra has embodied the sound of the Hansa City for more than 185 years. Today, the orchestra plays at nearly all opera and ballet performances at the Hamburg State Opera, in addition to its Philharmonic Concerts.

9th November 1828

The Philharmonic Society, an "association for the performance of winter concerts", is founded in Hamburg. Under the leadership of Friedrich Wilhelm Grund, the Society becomes a 19th-century meeting-place for renowned artists, including Clara Schumann, Franz Liszt, Hans von Bülow and Johannes Brahms.

1889

Piotr I. Tchaikovsky travels to Hamburg for the German premiere of his Symphony No. 5, which he dedicates to the board of the Philharmonic Society.

1896

The "Association of Friends of Music in Hamburg" is founded, aiming to create a non-seasonal, standing symphony orchestra in Hamburg by raising private and state funds. The association is supported in its goals by Hamburg’s Senate.

1904

Max Fiedler becomes the orchestra’s conductor. His goal is to introduce modernism to its programme. Fiedler manages to engage renowned soloists, for example Artur Schnabel and the violinists Pablo de Sarasate, Fritz Kreisler and Mischa Elman.

1905

Gustav Mahler conducts the Hamburg premiere of his Symphony No. 5.

1908

The newly-built Musikhalle is inaugurated with a festive concert by the Philharmonic Orchestra.

1922

With the appointment of conductor Karl Muck, a new era in the Philharmonic’s history begins. Outstanding events include the Beethoven Festival in 1927 and the first appearance by pianist Walter Gieseking and the 12-year-old Yehudi Menuhin. Sergey Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky make appearances as guest conductors on the Philharmonic’s podium.

1934

Those in power at the time unite the Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Municipal Theatre, renaming it "Philharmonic State Orchestra". Henceforth, it is responsible for opera performances and philharmonic concerts.

1951

Joseph Keilberth becomes Hamburg’s General Music Director, succeeding Eugen Jochum.

1961-1979

The chief conductors of the Philharmonic State Orchestra are Wolfgang Sawallisch (1961-1973), Horst Stein (1973-1976) and Aldo Ceccato (1976-1982).

1984

Hans Zender becomes General Music Director of the Opera and the Philharmonic. Numerous commissioned works, e.g. by Nono and Kagel, are given their world premieres under his baton.

1988

The new General Music Director is Gerd Albrecht. Under his leadership, the Philharmonic State Orchestra expands its repertoire further; one focus is on composers ostracized and persecuted during the Nazi era.

1990

Together with the Hamburg Ballet, the Philharmonic State Orchestra embarks upon a two-week tour to Moscow and Leningrad.

1992

The Hamburg State Opera and the Philharmonic State Orchestra go on a joint tour to Barcelona (Tannhäuser, Gurre-Lieder).

1994/1995

The highlight of the season is the world premiere of the oratorio Hagadah shel Pessach by Paul Dessau as part of the Musikfest Hamburg. The orchestra goes on tour to Israel (Belsazar, Le nozze di Figaro) together with the Hamburg State Opera.

1996

The productions Così fan tutte, Rigoletto, Tannhäuser and the German Requiem by Brahms are performed on a tour of the State Opera and Philharmonic to Japan.

1997

Ingo Metzmacher becomes General Music Director and takes on the leadership of the Philharmonic State Orchestra. The programme dramaturgy of the Philharmonic Concerts focuses on a different country for each of its seasons.

1998/1999

The orchestra tours through Spain, Germany and Austria successfully.

1999/2000

The structure of the orchestra’s concerts is readjusted: for the New Year’s Eve concert in 1999, the traditional performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 is replaced by an entertaining and diverse concert programme entitled Who is Afraid of 20th Century Music?.

2002/2003

The orchestra successfully tours through Europe (Brussels, Frankfurt, Metz, Thessaloniki, Athens, Munich and Vienna).

2003/2004

The orchestra makes guest appearances at the Lucerne Festival and returns to the Beethovenfest in Bonn. In August 2004 the Philharmonic triumphs at the Proms in London.

2005-2015

From 2005 to 2015 the Australian conductor Simone Young is General Music Director of the orchestra. Under her baton, numerous recordings are produced, including complete cycles of symphonies by Bruckner and Brahms, a complete Ring by Wagner, and works by Mahler and Hindemith. In 2008 Simone Young and the Philharmonic State Orchestra win the Brahms Award of the Schleswig-Holstein Brahms Society. In 2012 Simone Young receives a Helpmann Award for performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Wagner’s Rheingold with the Philharmonic in Brisbane, Australia.

2015

Starting with the 2015/2016 season, Kent Nagano has taken on the position of Hamburg’s General Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Philharmonic State Orchestra and the Hamburg State Opera. In addition to the traditional Philharmonic Concerts, Kent Nagano has initiated a new project, the Philharmonic Academy at St. Michaelis, focusing on experimentation and chamber music. Another new format is "Music and Science", an interdisciplinary cooperation with the Max Planck Society.

2016

The orchestra successfully tours South America. In Argentina, Brasil, Chile and Uruguay the Philharmonics present two different concert programs with works by Brahms, Strauss, Bruckner and Wagner under the direction of Kent Nagano. Together with the Hamburg State Opera the orchestra brings Wagners "Tristan and Isolde" to the stage, for the first time in Colombian opera history.