Established in post World War II West Germany to serve as the resident ensemble for the Bavarian Radio Station in Munich, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the premier broadcasting orchestras in Europe. Sometimes known outside Germany as the Munich Symphony, this 115-piece orchestra is based in the 2,400-seat Philharmonie Munich am Gasteig where it maintains a full schedule of public performances. Although the ensemble's primary duty is broadcasting, the orchestra tours and records regularly. In addition to the full orchestra, several smaller ensembles including the Koeckert-Quartet, the Back Collegium Munich and the Munich Brass Ensemble have been established by members of the larger group. The popularity and critical acclaim given these smaller ensembles reflects the high standard of musicianship that is present within the full orchestra.
Created in 1948, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra's first radio broadcast was a performance of the Intermezzo from Richard Strauss's opera Capriccio, conducted by the composer, in July, 1949. Eugen Jochum began his decade as the chief conductor for the orchestra in September, 1949. Under his leadership, the ensemble toured widely in Europe and began its long association with and participation in the International Competition of the Association of the Radio Broadcasting Stations in the Federal Republic of Germany. Focusing principally on a traditional repertoire of Classical and Romantic music, Jochum also established the "Musica Viva," a concert series of contemporary music, which has become a tradition for the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Many twentieth-century composers have been guest conductors for this series including Stravinsky, Hindemith and Kubelik.
Jochum was succeeded as conductor by Rafael Kubelik in 1961, who carried on the tradition of maintaining a Classical and Romantic repertoire which Jochum had started. In Kubelik's eighteen years as chief conductor, the orchestra toured extensively in Europe and North America, participated in numerous radio, television and recording projects and dramatically expanded its musical repertoire. Its guest conductors were among the finest including Leonard Bernstein and Kiril Kondrashin, who succeeded Kubelik as conductor in 1979. Unfortunately, his time with the orchestra was very short, barely two years, due to his untimely death in 1981.
Various guest conductors and a busy broadcasting, concert and recording schedule carried the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra forward until 1983, when Sir Colin Davis became chief conductor. Under Davis, the ensemble enhanced its already excellent reputation with a stunning recording of the complete cycle of the Mendelssohn symphonies and well-accepted tours of Europe, Japan and the United States.
As the chief conductor who chosen to lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra into the twenty-first century, Lorin Maazel is the first American to conduct this illustrious ensemble. Under his direction, the orchestra has continued its focus on Classical and Romantic repertoire and its full broadcasting and performance schedule.
With its traditionally rich and romantic sound, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra has truly earned its international reputation as one of the finest broadcasting and touring orchestras in Europe. ~ Corie Stanton Root