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WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: 1947 - Köln (Colgne), Germany

WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln (= WDR SO; WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra) and WDR Runfunkorchester Köln are the names of two German orchestras located in the ancient Rhineland city of Cologne (Köln) Germany.

The city was a colony of Rome (hence its name), founded in 50 A.D. It joined the Hanseatic League in 1201 and gained the status of a free imperial city in 1474. Thus it had no royal or noble court to serve as the source of theatrical or orchestral organizations. The Catholic Church was the primary sponsor of elevated music. The city had a few trumpeters and woodwind players to provide ceremonial music. The impetus for secular music came from the bourgeois class. A group of music lovers founded the Musikalishe Gesellschaft oder Akaemie in 1743, which gave concerts.

The city's status was altered when French troops occupied it during the Napoleonic Wars, and at in the end it came under the control of Prussia in 1815. The Musikalische Gesellschaft united with the Singverein (Singing Society) in 1827 to found the Konzertgesellschaft, which have put on concerts since 1857. Its orchestra has been supported by the municipality since 1888. Radio broadcasting began in Cologne in 1926 with the establishment of Reichssender Köln. From 1927 onward it maintained small groups of musicians to use in radio production.

In 1947 Allied occupation forces approved the reorganization of German radio broadcasting, which devolved from the centralized control of the Nazi government into a system of regional stations The orchestra was also founded in 1947 in Colgne by Allied occupation authorities after World War II, as the orchestra of Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunk (NWDR; Northwest German Radio). The orchestra later acquired the names of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra and WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln (WDR Symphony Orchestra; WDR = Westdeutscher Rundfunk, meaning western German Radio). It is now a full-time symphony orchestra that became the leading orchestra of Cologne, and is not used for other radio or television production.

The Orchestra has recorded frequently and is particularly known for its performances of 20th-century and contemporary music in addition to the standard Classical and Romantic repertory. The Orchestra has commissioned and premiered works from such composers as Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

The Oorchestra became an internationally known symphony orchestra under the batons of Music Directors Christoph von Dohnányi, Zdenek Macal, Hiroshi Wakasugi, Gary Bertini, Hans Vonk, and, since 1997, Semyon Bychkov. Its guest conductors have included Claudio Abbado, Karl Böhm, Fritz Busch, Erich Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan, Otto Klemperer, Lorin Maazel, André Previn, Georg Solti, Günter Wand, and Zubin Mehta.

In addition, WDR maintains its own staff orchestra, also founded in 1947, known as Kölner Rundfunkorchester (Cologne Radio Orchestra) until it was renamed in 1999 the WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln (WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne). This is a group of musicians who might be called upon to play underscore in radio and television productions, musicals, operettas, WDR opera productions, and classical and modern music, as well as jazz. It gives concerts in the same Cologne concert hall also used by the Symphony Orchestra, as well as in WDR's own Klaus von Bismark Hall in the Cologne Radio House. It has gained international recognition for its playing in a series of productions of the works of Kurt Weill.

The Radio Orchestra's conductors have been Hermann Hagestadt, Franz Marszalek, Curt Cremer, and Heinz Geese. Helmuth Froschauer became its Chief Conductor in 1997.

WDR also maintains the musical organizations the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln (Cologne Radio Choir), Big Band Köln, the famous WDR electronic music studio directed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the Capella Coloniensis, since 1954 its specialized Baroque and Classical ensemble.

Since 1997, the orchestra's principal conductor has been Semyon Bychkov. He is scheduled to step down from the post in 2010. In November 2008, the orchestra announced the appointment of Jukka-Pekka Saraste as its next principal conductor, effective with the 2010-2011 season.

Principal Conductors

Christoph von Dohnányi (1964-1969)
Zdeněk Mácal (1970-1974)
Hiroshi Wakasugi (1977-1983)
Gary Bertini (1983-1991)
Hans Vonk (1990-1997)
Semyon Bychkov (1997-2010)
Jukka-Pekka Saraste (2010-Present)

Source: Wikipedia Website (July 2010); All Music Guide (Author: Joseph Stevenson)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2010)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Helmuth Rilling


Radio: BWV 11 [2nd], BWV 43 [2nd]

Recordings of Bach’s Instrumental Works




Otto Klemperer


Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 [3rd]

Links to other Sites

WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne (Wikipedia) [English]
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln (Wikipedia) [German]

WDR Sinfonieorchester (Official Website) [German]
WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln - Orchestra (Classical Archives)

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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Last update: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 06:22