The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra was founded by Franz Kaim, the son of a piano maker, as a private initiative in 1893. They have been shaping the musical life of Munich ever since. Right from the early years of the orchestra, still known as the »Kaim-Orchester« then, a top performance level was guaranteed by conductors such as Hans Winderstein, Hermann Zumpe and the Bruckner scholar Ferdinand Löwe. They also worked hard to promote contemporary works. Between 1898 and 1905 the manager at that time, Felix Weingartner, organised a number of international tours which increased the international reputation of the orchestra.
Gustav Mahler conducted the orchestra in 1901 and 1910 on the occasions of the premieres of his Fourth and Eighth Symphony. In November 1911, the ensemble, by then renamed »Konzertvereinsorchester«, the concert association orchestra, premiered Gustav Mahler’s »Das Lied von der Erde« (The Song of the Earth) conducted by Bruno Walter.
Between 1908 and 1914, Ferdinand Löwe took over the management of the orchestra again. Following up on the highly successful guest performance of Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony in Vienna on March 1, 1898, he conducted the first major Bruckner concerts, thus starting the Bruckner tradition of the orchestra which continues until today. It was under the tenure of Siegmund von Hausegger, Music Director from 1920 to 1938, that two symphonies of Bruckner were premiered in their original versions, and the name of the orchestra was changed to »Münchner Philharmoniker« (Munich Philharmonic).
Between 1938 and 1944, the orchestra was directed by the Austrian composer Oswald Kabasta.He continued the Bruckner tradition of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra as was also evident during numerous national and international tours.
The first concert after the Second World War was opened with Eugen Jochum conducting the overture to Shakespeare’s »A Midsummer Night’s Dream« by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. In the autumn of 1945, the outstanding conductor Hans Rosbaud took over the Munich Philharmonic. Among other things, he was passionately committed to furthering modern music. Rosbaud was succeeded from 1949 to 1966 by Fritz Rieger. In the era of Rudolf Kempes, director of the orchestra from 1967 to 1976, the Philharmonic first travelled to Japan and the former USSR.
Sergiu Celibidache conducted his first concert series for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in February 1979. He was appointed as Music Director in June of the same year. Concert tours lead him and the orchestra through many European countries as well as to South America and Asia. The legendary Bruckner concerts he conducted with the orchestra during this time played a major role in furthering the international reputation of the orchestra. During the era of Celibidache, the orchestra was repeatedly asked to accompany the Federal Government or the Federal President as musical ambassador.
The Gasteig – a new home
In 1985, after over 40 years, the Philharmonic Orchestra finally received their own concert hall in the Gasteig, ending many interim years in the Herkules Hall in Munich. Their old home, the so-called »Tonhalle« (Sound Hall) in the Türkenstraße had been completely destroyed in 1944.
Between 1999 and July 2004, James Levine, took over the position as Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestra went on extensive concert tours with him during this time. Following a major European tour in the winter of 2000, the Munich Philharmonic, under James Levine, performed in the Carnegie Hall in New York in February 2002, among other places. The debut at the »Proms« in London followed in the summer of 2002. The orchestra was awarded the prize for the best concert programme of the season 2003/2004 by the »Deutscher Musikverlegerverband« (German Association of Music Publishers) in the spring of 2003.
The initiative »Spielfeld Klassik« (classical playing field) presents the extensive range of the Munich Philharmonic in the areas of cultural education and communication in a new and enhanced way. The Munich Philharmonic offer numerous events for children, teenagers and adults, where they can get to know the world of classical music from different perspectives and in a new way: for instance through children's concerts, youth concerts or university concerts, or through introductory events, instrument presentations, visits to rehearsals, or actively in workshops. No matter whether as an individual, as a kindergarten group, a school class or as a family – there is the right type of event for everybody.
Honorary conductor Zubin Mehta
In January 2004, Zubin Mehta was appointed first »Honorary Conductor« in the history of the orchestra.
In May 2003, Christian Thielemann signed his contract as the new Music Director. His tenure began on September 1, 2004. On the October 29, 2004, he conducted Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony as his opening concert. The Munich Philharmonic, conducted by their new Music Director, were also to be heard on the occasion of the »Echo-Klassik« award 2004 in the Philharmonie (Philharmonic Hall) on October 24, 2004. During this event, Christian Thielemann was awarded the only prize in the special category »Artist of the Year«. On October 20, 2005, the orchestra, conducted by Christian Thielemann, gave a concert in honour of Pope Benedikt XVI. In the Aula Paolo VI, among other pieces, the Philharmonic Orchestra played works by Palestrina, Verdi and Wagner to an audience of 8,000. Guest performances in Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Rome, Turin, Barcelona, Madrid and many more were celebrated by audience and press similarly. In November 2007, the first joint tour through Asia with concerts in Japan, South Korea and China took place.
In January of 2009, a series of performances of »Der Rosenkavalier« by Richard Strauss conducted by Christian Thielemann launched several years of cooperation with the Festival Theatre in Baden-Baden. This was followed, one year later, by Richard Strauss’s »Elektra«. The four symphonies of Johannes Brahms are planned for January of 2011.
During the Japanese tour at the end of March 2010 under the direction of Christian Thielemann, the audience welcomed the Munich Philharmonic with great enthusiasm. Highlights of the tour included concerts ion Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Tokyo.
Starting with the concert season 2012/2013 until his death in July 2014, Lorin Maazel has been acting as the New Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic. Beyond this, 18,000 subscribers in the Philharmonie on the Gasteig impressively document the ranking of the orchestra under the direction of its General Music Director in Munich’s cultural life.
As of the 2012/2103 season, Lorin Maazel has assumed the post of Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic. During his tenure the main focus of his work was on extending the repertoire and making the sound more flexible.
Since 2015/16 Valery Gergiev is the Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. With Gergiev, a project was implemented that had been unprecedented in Munich: the performance of all 15 symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich together with the Mariinsky orchestra in the season 2011/12. This type of cyclic cooperation was continued with works by Igor Stravinsky in the season 2013/14.
Since March 2008, Paul Müller has been the Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. He studied cultural management and is the former director of the Bamberger Symphoniker.