On 11 January 2017, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra will open the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. It will mark the beginning of a new era for the former NDR Symphony Orchestra: the ensemble will move in as Orchestra in Residence at the Elbphilharmonie, where it will make its musical home after 70 years of orchestral history. The orchestra’s programme of performances will play a major role in shaping the artistic profile of this spectacular new concert hall. As a worldwide ambassador for Hamburg and Northern Germany, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra now has an artistic home that is reflected in its name.
The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra was founded in 1945 as the orchestra of the NWDR (Northwest German Radio) as part of the cultural and intellectual rebuilding process after the Second World War. As its first Principal Conductor, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt shaped the orchestra’s artistic profile for more than a quarter of a century; later on, a 20-year period of close collaboration with Günter Wand was similarly significant. Wand, who served as Principal Conductor from 1982 and was awarded the role of lifetime Honorary Conductor in 1987, cemented the orchestra’s international reputation. In particular, his interpretations of the symphonies of Brahms and Bruckner set new standards and became known as the ensemble’s artistic calling card. Christoph Eschenbach was appointed as Principal Conductor in 1998, and in 2004, Christoph von Dohnanyi continued the line of renowned Principal Conductors. Since taking up the position in 2011, Thomas Hengelbrock has been in charge of continuing the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra’s story. His work is characterised by unconventional programme planning and a delight in experimenting with his interpretations. Documents of Hengelbrock’s work with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra include CDs published by Sony featuring works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvořak and Schubert, as well as the first recording of the Hamburg version of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. Hengelbrock will work with Krzysztof Urbański, newly appointed as Principal Guest Conductor, to continue to raise the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra’s profile as one of the leading concert orchestras of the 21st century.
The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra holds its own concert series in Hamburg, Lübeck and Kiel, and plays a leading role at the large festivals in northern Germany. Its international standing is underlined by tours throughout Europe, to North and South America and to Asia. In addition, the orchestra has expanded its educational function in recent years, and showed a strong commitment to youth development through the founding of its own academy. In this area too, the orchestra’s vision reaches beyond national borders. For example, in June 2015 a long-term collaboration was agreed with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, centred on a large-scale education project in China.