Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin


Active: 1946
The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO Berlin) is one of the three fine international class orchestras located in the capital city of the reunified German Federal Republic and has a history growing out of the separation of the city and nation.

Before World War II, the two main orchestras in Berlin were the Berlin Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic, a private organization founded in 1882) and the Staatskapelle Berlin (Berlin State Orchestra, the orchestra of the Berlin State Opera founded in 1743). The Staatskapelle concerts and business offices were located in the Russian Sector at the end of World War II; those of the Philharmonic were in the Western part.

The American authorities established a station called RIAS (Radio in the American Sector). RIAS established its own RIAS-Symphony Orchestra in 1946. It soon became known in particular for its performances of modern classics. Its most important early conductor was the talented Hungarian Ferenc Fricsay, who did much towards establishing the post-war reputation of his countryman Béla Bartók through his performances and recordings with the RIAS Orchestra. He was music director in 1948 - 1954 and again in 1960 - 1963. Another well-known conductor, the American Lorin Maazel (1964 - 1975), continued this tradition.

West Berlin was given a separate government in the 1950s and, to reflect that, the RIAS Orchestra eventually changed its name to Berlin-Radio Symphony Orchestra. Many members of the orchestra happened to live in East Berlin and could no longer travel to their jobs on the other side of the Berlin Wall; the converse was true of West Berlin residents who worked for the two opera houses and the orchestra in East Berlin (including its own radio orchestra). In effect all these ensembles and organizations swapped much of their membership.

The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra continued its position as the second orchestra of West Berlin with music director Riccardo Chailly, whose fine recording of the Bruckner Seventh Symphony showed a richness and smoothness of sound in no way inferior to that of the vaunted Berlin Philharmonic. After Riccardo Chailly, Vladimir Ashkenazy became music director.

Following the collapse of East Germany and destruction of the Wall, and the resulting reunification, the Berlin RSO renamed itself the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. It became part of an organization named ROC--Rundfunk-Orchester und -Chöre GmbH Berlin (Radio Orchestras and Choruses Corporation of Berlin). ROC is essentially a contractor that puts on its own concerts and provides its five ensembles for broadcasting work by the various radio organizations of the city. These five ensembles are the RIAS BIG BAND, RIAS-Kammerchor (RIAS Chamber Choir), the Rundfunkchor Berlin (Berlin Broadcasting Chorus), the DSO Berlin, and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Berlin Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra, the present identity of the former East Germany's Berlin Radio Orchestra).

The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester continues to play a mix of standard repertoire, twentieth-century masterworks with an emphasis on German and Austrian classics, and the most recent orchestral repertory. It gives concerts the Philharmonie, the Gendarmenmarkt Concert House, and the major broadcasting companies' large concert studios. Since September, 2000, the DSO Berlin's chief conductor and artistic director has been Kent Nagano.

There are 95 Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin recordings available.

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