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  • Photo: Julika Friess

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


The orchestra tours through Spain, Germany and Austria successfully.


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?.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


On Friday, January 13, 2017, Kent Nagano and the Philharmonic State Orchestra give their first public concert at the Elbphilharmonie as part of the hall's opening festivities. For this special occasion, Hamburg's General Music Director had commissioned Jörg Widmann to write the evening-length oratorio ARCHE for orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists.


International tours of Spain and Japan: in January, the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra goes on an 8-day concert tour of Spain with Kent Nagano. In addition to performances on the Iberian Peninsula and the Canary Islands, a final concert takes them to Basle, Switzerland. The programme features works by Johannes Brahms, including Symphony No. 4 and the Violin Concerto with Veronika Eberle as soloist. In October, this is followed by a 9-day concert tour of Japan with the Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. In addition to two concerts in Tokyo, the orchestra will also appear at the newly-opened concert house in Takasaki and in Hamburg's twin city of Osaka.

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