Also: Munchner Philharmoniker Orchestra, Munich Philharmoniker, Kaim Orchestra, Kaim Orchester, Kaim-Orchester.
The Munich Philharmonic (German: Münchner Philharmoniker) is a symphony orchestra located in the city of Munich. It is one of Munich’s four principal orchestras, along with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Radio Orchestra and the Bavarian State Orchestra. Since 1985, the orchestra has been housed in the Gasteig Culture Centre.
The orchestra was founded in Munich in 1893 by Franz Kaim (1856-1901), son of a piano manufacturer, as the Kaim Orchestra. In 1895, it took up residence in the city’s Tonhalle (concert hall).
It soon attracted distinguished conductors: Gustav Mahler first directed the group in 1897 and premiered his Symphony No. 4 and Symphony No. 8 with the orchestra, while Bruno Walter (1876-1962) directed the orchestra for the posthumous premiere of Mahler‘s Das Lied von der Erde.
Felix Weingartner was music director from 1898 to 1905, and the young Wilhelm Furtwängler made his auspicious conducting debut there in 1906. Meanwhile Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) pupil Ferdinand Löwe established an enduring tradition of Bruckner performance which continues to this day.
Throughout this time the orchestra, which by 1910 was known as the “Munich Konzertverein Orchestra”, was privately funded, but during World War I finances became tight and players were called for military service, forcing the orchestra to cease operation. After the war, the orchestra was taken over by the city of Munich and restarted under the leadership of composer Hans Pfitzner, soon replaced by Bruckner pioneer Siegmund von Hausegger. In 1928, the orchestra acquired its current name.
After the rise of the Nazi party in 1933, the orchestra stamped its scores with swastikas and the words “The Orchestra of the Fascist Movement”. (The swastikas weren’t removed until the early 1990s.) In 1938, the pro-Nazi conductor Oswald Kabasta became chief conductor, raising its musical standards even as World War II began.
During the war, the Tonhalle (Kaim-Saal) was destroyed and the orchestra, homeless, was again shut-down for a period. After the war, fortunes recovered under the music directors Hans Rosbaud and Rudolf Kempe and in 1979, Sergiu Celibidache took over, raising the orchestra to the highest world-class standards. Notoriously demanding of his players, the Romanian created a unique sound for the orchestra. In a well published case, he tried to remove principal trombonist Abbie Conant from her position because she was a woman.
Conant sued the City of Munich and, after a lengthy legal procedure, in 1993 won pay equal to that of her male colleagues along with being reinstated as full first soloist status as the court found that the orchestra and the City of Munich broke the law concerning equal treatment of men and women. Reportedly, Conant’s audition was the last to be held using blind audition.
After Celibidache’s sudden death in 1996, James Levine took over as chief conductor of the orchestra, serving until 2004. Christian Thielemann became the orchestra’s music director in 2004, joined by Wouter Hoekstra as Intendant. However, in 2007, Hoekstra was dismissed from his post after reported disputes with Thielemann. In 2009, the orchestra announced the scheduled conclusion of Thielemann’s tenure in 2011. Thielemann’s demand to have a say over the choice of guest conductors was not approved. In March 2010, Lorin Maazel was named the orchestra’s next chief conductor, effective with the 2012-2013 season.
Although the orchestra did not officially designate the length of the initial contract, one preliminary report in February 2010 indicated an initial contract of 3 years.On 23 January 2013, it was announced that Valery Gergiev will succeed Maazel as the principal conductor from 2015. The initial contract will run through 2020.
Over the course of its history, the Munich Philharmonic has performed premieres of Günter Bialas, Anton Bruckner, Harald Genzmer, Luigi Nono and others.
- 1893-1895 Hans Winderstein
- 1895-1897 Hermann Zumpe
- 1897-1898 Ferdinand Lowe
- 1898-1905 Felix von Weingartner (1863-1942)
- 1905-1908 Georg Schnéevoigt
- 1908-1914 Ferdinand Löwe
- 1919-1920 Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949)
- 1920-1938 Siegmund von Hausegger
- 1938-1944 Oswald Kabasta
- 1945-1948 Hans Rosbaud
- 1949-1966 Fritz Rieger
- 1967-1976 Rudolf Kempe
- 1979-1996 Sergiu Celibidache
- 1999-2004 James Levine
- 2004-2011 Christian Thielemann
- 2012-2014 Lorin Maazel
- 2015-2020 Valery Gergiev