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241th Season

Bamberg Symphony Orchestra


“However ancient its roots, Bamberg’s Orchestra is an exhilarating product of the here and now, clear yet cohesive in tone… Bruckner’s Third Symphony was performed with shine, rigour, vigour and keenly controlled, unromanticised momentum.”

A keen insight from Conrad Wilson of Scotland’s Glasgow Herald, after a triumphant concert at the 2003 Edinburgh International Festival: yes, the Bamberger Symphoniker has ancient roots and a proud tradition of idiomatic excellence in Classical and Romantic music.

But, under Principal Conductor Jonathan Nott, Bamberg is looking firmly forward to new discoveries. We invite you to share the fascinating road the Orchestra has travelled in more than half-a-century and the exciting journeys that lie ahead, by clicking on the links.

The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra is now recognized as one of Germany’s leading orchestras – yet it’s one of the youngest, just sixty years old. Its roots lie nearby in Prague, just over the border, in what was then the Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Bohemia has long exported great composers and players and attracted leading musicians from Mozart and Weber to Mahler and Schoenberg. Pre-War Prague’s large German population enjoyed its own theatre, opera and, from 1940-45, German Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague.

After the War, ethnic Germans had to leave former occupied territories; and in 1945, musicians from Silesia (now in Poland), Karlsbad (now Czech Karlovy Vary) and the Prague German Philharmonic met up – in Bamberg. One of the few German cities not badly damaged by bombing, Bamberg had no concert hall but housing aplenty: and on 16th March 1946, the ‘Bamberg Musicians’ Orchestra’ gave an inaugural concert. Within months came a new name and an old friend from Prague days, Joseph Keilberth, Principal Conductor from 1949-1968, whose renewed association with the Bamberg players helped to build and broadcast their name.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, there were still enough Bohemian musicians in Bamberg to give the orchestra a special sound, especially suited to the central Classical and Romantic repertoire. But from the start the Symphony Orchestra realised that, to grow, it had to reach out: beautiful and intensely musical as Bamberg is, a small city can’t keep a world-class orchestra busy.

So the Bambergers became post-war Germany’s musical ambassadors: the first orchestra to visit France (1949), followed by tours to Portugal and Spain (1950), the New World (1954)… And the punishing but rewarding schedule continues: the Bamberg Symphony is Germany’s most-travelled orchestra.

At home, Bamberg’s sound and style bloomed under a series of distinguished conductors – Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss, Eugen Jochum, James Loughran, Witold Rowicki – and some might-have beens: the drowning of Istvбn Kertйsz robbed the world’s music-lovers of perhaps years of great music-making in Bamberg. But into the breach stepped, among others, Horst Stein (Principal Conductor from 1985 – 1996) and Ingo Metzmacher (Principal Guest Conductor from 1993 – 1998) – it was during his tenure that, at last, the city of Bamberg and its Symphony Orchestra got the new concert hall they’d longed for over four decades.

As everywhere in Germany, the 1990s brought hope and upheaval and, after a time of financial and artistic uncertainty, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra’s new management – one of the leanest of any international orchestra – has joined forces with Principal Conductor Jonathan Nott to place the Orchestra on a secure financial footing and an unparalleled support from Bamberg’s citizens. All this serves Bamberg’s bold, challenging, exploratory new music policy – do come to Bamberg and share the rewards of this special partnership!

Bamberg Symphony Orchestra official website

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