The Berlin Philharmonics are definitely a milestone amongst the best orchestras of the world. Especially when it comes to orchestra music (compositions which are explicitly written for orchestra only, to be played in a concert without any acting or singing or other stage performance than the musicians), the Berlin Philharmonics are unbeatable in their perfection and performance. To that they can look back on an outstanding history, which seems to gather every important musician that ever lived since the orchestra’s founding in 1882, like Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvořák, Richard Strauss and so on. It would take the entirety of music history since then to list all the noteworthy collaborations, but it gives a feeling for the importance of the orchestra.
Equally important and directly linked to the Berlin Philharmonics are their principal conductors. Starting with Hans von Bülow to Wilhelm Furtwängler and Sir Simon Rattle, each of these conductors, as well as numerous others, has helped the orchestra to become what it is today, and has in turn made himself an icon. Just recently in June 2015, the orchestra voted for a successor to Sir Simon Rattle, who will take over the London Symphony Orchestra in 2018 and therefore leave Berlin. After two votes, the musicians voted for Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, who is currently master of the Bavarian State Orchestra. Petrenko will only add to an incredible legacy of talented conductors in Berlin.
Herbert Von Karajan
There are several peculiarities when it comes to Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, one of the most outstanding and genius conductor that ever lived. His style of rehearsing was revolutionary in the way that he would let the orchestra practice a completely different piece than the one he was actually rehearsing, to achieve the exact sound he had in mind for that specific part. Karajan was a perfectionist in all matters, always in search for the utmost fitting tone. He would conduct with closed eyes, knowing the entire score by heart, an ability which is until today a mystery, achieving a mind blowing, homogeneous sound and a feeling more of a small ensemble amongst the musicians than a big orchestra.
Sir Simon Rattle
Current principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonics, Sir Simon Rattle was the youngest maestro to direct Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ at the renowned opera festival in Glastonbury in 1977. He would help numerous orchestras to achieve international recognition, for instance the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. His engagement with the Berlin Philharmonics started in 2002 where he instantly founded his education project Zukunft@Bphil. The fourth venture was documented as a movie and titled Rhythm is it which found international fame and popularity.
Another conductor who grew up and got his musical education in Austria, Russian maestro Kirill Petrenko has been featured greatly in the media recently, as the privileged successor of Sir Simon Rattle to take over the Berlin Philharmonics. He was overwhelmed with joy when the orchestra told him that he had been chosen. Although media attention is something this very shy man is definitely not fond of, he may lose this attricute when living and working in Berlin, as the Philharmonics enjoy quite a lot of attention. Music experts and critics talk very highly of him as an acribic but benevolently working conductor and predict him a great future.
Argentinian–Israeli–Spanish–Palestinian conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim has been politically active since the first stages of his outstanding career, and has used both music and his fame to bring nations together which are often in conflict. For instance, he founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which is composed half of Israeli and half of Arab musicians, he was awarded with several honors. Yet this is not all he is famous for. Like all conductors in this elite, he is implacable when rehearsing, often leading his musicians to their very limit to create a musical masterpiece. Barenboim is quite an outstanding pianist as well and taped several still unreached recordings with the brilliant cellist Jacqueline du Pré, to whom he was married.
American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein made his contribution to the world with writing probably the most important musical of all time, The West Side Story, and bringing classical music to rock-raised kids with his television series Young People’s Concerts. His career got a kick off when he shortly stepped in for the unwell Bruno Walter and conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Bernstein was a popular musician in Europe as well, famous for his emotional character and vanguard style. He would even bounce and jump when conducting. But he was also an exceptionally gifted teacher and beloved professor at Harvard University.