The Münchner Philharmoniker (Munich Philharmonic) is a German symphony orchestra located in the city of Munich. It is one of Munich's three principal orchestras, along with the Bavarian Radio Symphony 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, 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 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 pupil Ferdinand Löwe established an enduring tradition of Bruckner performance which continues to this day.
Throughout this time the orchestra which by 1910 had become known as the Munich Konzertverein Orchestra, was privately funded, but during World War I finances became tight and players were called up for military service, forcing the orchestra to shut down. 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 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. 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. He tried to remove principal trombonist Abbie Conant from her position because she was a woman in a well-published case. 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 had broken 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.
Over the course of its history, the Munich Philharmonic has performed premieres of Günter Bialas, Anton Bruckner, Harald Genzmer, Luigi Nono, Gustav Mahler and others.
1893–1895 Hans Winderstein
1895–1897 Hermann Zumpe
1897–1898 Ferdinand Löwe
1898–1905 Felix Weingartner
1905–1908 Georg Schnéevoigt
1908–1914 Ferdinand Löwe
1919–1920 Hans Pfitzner
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–present Christian Thielemann
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