The NDR Symphony Orchestra, the future orchestra in residence of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, has its own concert series in Hamburg, Lübeck, Kiel and Wismar. Guest performances have regularly taken the orchestra to the most important European festivals and concerts. Tours to Japan, China, South America and the USA also underline the orchestra’s status as one of the world’s leading concert orchestras.
The NDR Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1945. Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, the orchestra’s first principal conductor, defined its artistic profile for more than a quarter of a century. During his era, the orchestra’s guest conductors included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Hans Knappertsbusch, Erich Kleiber, Otto Klemperer, Ferenc Fricsay and Karl Böhm. After the principal conductors of the seventies, Moshe Atzmon and Klaus Tennstedt, the 20 year-long intensive cooperation between the orchestra and Günter Wand achieved a similar significance as the Schmidt-Isserstedt era. Wand, principal conductor since 1982 and named honorary conductor for life already in 1987, defined the artistic work of the NDR Symphony Orchestra up until his death in 2002. During the nineties the series of principal conductors continued with John Eliot Gardiner and Herbert Blomstedt. In 1998 Christoph Eschenbach was called to take up this position. With the start of the 2004/05 season, Christoph von Dohnányi continued the tradition of notable principal conductor figures of the NDR Symphony Orchestra and further established the orchestra’s international reputation. Since 2004 Alan Gilbert is also closely associated with the orchestra as principal guest conductor. In 2015 he will be followed in this position by the young Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbański.
Thomas Hengelbrock has been the principal conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra since 2011. His work is characterised by a love of experimental interpretations and unconventional programmes. Hengelbrock’s new musical style, his inspiring manner of conveying music and innovative presentation forms, for example the “opening night” concert at the start of each season, have trigged a mood of optimism and a new beginning amongst orchestra, audience and press alike. Successful tours through Germany, Europe and Japan as well as concerts as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, have been well received, both nationally and internationally. Conducted by Hengelbrock, the orchestra also gave its debut in the orchestra pit at the Baden-Baden Whitsun Music Festival 2014. Hengelbrock’s cooperation with the NDR Symphony Orchestra is documented on, amongst others, CDs released by Sony with works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvořák and Schubert as well as most recently a recording of the Hamburg rendition of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony.