Soon after it was founded by Eugen Jochum in 1949, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks developed into an internationally renowned orchestra, its fame continuously expanded and fortified by its chief conductors Rafael Kubelik, Sir Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel.
From 2003 until his death in Dec 1st, 2019 it was Mariss Jansons who set new standards as the orchestra’s chief conductor.
Besides the orchestra’s repertoire of classical and romantic oeuvres a strong focus lies on contemporary works, in conjuction with the “musica viva” series, founded 1945 by Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Right from the start it was one of the main assignments to foster contemporary works of composers like Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhas as well as, more recently Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricia Kagel, Luciano Berio and Peter Eötvös. Many of them stood on the podium themselves.
Many renowned guest conductors shaped the artistic profile of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Maestri like Erich and Carlos Kleiber, Otto Klemperer, Leonard Berstein, Georg Solti, Maria Giulini, Kurt Sanderling and – in recent times – Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Herbert Blomstedt, Daniel Harding, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Sir Simon Rattle and Andris Nelsons.
Besides the many performances in Munich and other German cities extensive concert tours have taken the orchestra to virtually every European country, to Asia as well as to North and South America. It makes appearances in the most renowned concert halls worldwide.
The Orchestra gives special attention to the encouragement of up-and-coming young musicians. In conjunction with the ARD International Music Competition, the Symphonieorchester accompanies young musicians both in the final rounds as well as in the symphonic closing concert featuring the prizewinners. Since October 2001 the Akademie des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks has been doing valuable educational work by preparing young musicians for their later careers and thus building a solid bridge between education and professional activity. Beyond this, the Symphonieorchester maintains a program for young people with many activities designed toward the worthy goal of bringing the younger generation closer together with classical music.
In a number of different surveys of international music critics, since years the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks is counted as one of the top ten orchestras in the world. Most recently the BRSO concerts in Japan in November 2018 under the baton of Zubin Mehta were elected by Japanese music critics as # 1 in the “Best Concerts 2018” ranking.
With a high number of CD releases on major labels and – since September 2009 – also on Bavarian broadcasting’s own label BR-KLASSIK, the BRSO obtains regularly national and international awards. Like the Grammy in 2006 for Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony as the “Best Orchestral Performance” with Mariss Jansons or – the most recent one – the BBC Music Magazine’s Award “Recording of the Year” for Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Bernard Haitink in 2018. Also in 2018, the CD with Bruckner’s 8th Symphony conducted by Mariss Jansons received the German Records Critics’ Award.