Founded in Berlin, Germany in 1882, the Berliner Philharmoniker (in English, the Berlin Philharmonic) went on to become one of Europe's best known orchestras, surviving the stress of the Nazi regimes, two World Wars, and German re-unification.
Originally known as the Frühere Bilsesche Kapelle, the 54 founders came together after hearing that they would have to take a fourth-class seating arrangement on a train trip to Warsaw with their former group, which was led by Benjamin Bilse. Reorganized and renamed in 1887, the Berliner acquired the conductor skills of Hans von Bülow, and worked to build themselves a solid reputation. In these early days, the Berliner worked with such guests as Hans Richter and Richard Strauss. There were some stressful moments, as a series of conductors came and went, but the orchestra weathered all comers until the stresses of Nazification and World War II threatened to tear the group apart. Some controversy arose as to the nature of the orchestra's ties to Hitler, which were explored by the Orchestra itself in the book, The Reich's Orchestra, and in the film Taking Sides. Aside from political troubles, the Philharmonic also lost its physical performance location during the war. The group eventually moved into the Philharmonie, which completed construction in 1963. The Philharmoniker has maintained a residence there into the 21st century. With re-unification in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War, money problems with the budget of a new-look Berlin came to the fore, but eventually things worked out. In 1999, Sir Simon Rattle was made conductor. He signed a contract to maintain the position until 2012. The Philharmoniker has won countless awards over the years, and been in the unique position of working with the metal band the Ocean on a handful of their records. ~ Chris True, Rovi