For decades, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) has occupied a distinguished place among German radio orchestras and Berlin’s premier ensembles. With an illustrious history dating back to its inception in 1923, this orchestra has continuously evolved, weathering the changing tides of 20th-century German history while maintaining its commitment to musical excellence.
Under the leadership of notable conductors, the RSB has earned international acclaim and developed its expertise in German Romantic and late Romantic repertoire. Notable achievements during this period included a ten-part Wagner cycle and a complete recording of the symphonies of Hans Werner Henze. Marek Janowski, the orchestra’s principal conductor from 2001 to 2016, played a pivotal role in cultivating this rich tradition.
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Janowski’s predecessor, also contributed significantly to elevating the orchestra’s standards, fostering a full symphonic tone and an exemplary sense of togetherness.
In 2017, the RSB welcomed Vladimir Jurowski as chief conductor and artistic director, inheriting an orchestra in excellent form. Under Jurowski’s leadership, the orchestra has continued to flourish, with a more collaborative and creative work culture emerging. Accompanying Jurowski during his tenure, Karina Canellakis, a young American conductor, served as the Principal Guest Conductor from 2019 to 2023, further enriching the orchestra’s musical tapestry.
The Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin’s history is intertwined with the development of German radio, dating back to the first “musical hour” of German radio in October 1923. Throughout the years, it has been graced by the presence of renowned conductors, including Sergiu Celibidache, Eugen Jochum, Hermann Abendroth, Rolf Kleinert, and Heinz Rögner, each leaving an indelible mark on the ensemble.
This orchestra has become a magnet for young and talented conductors on the global music scene, including Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko, and many more. The RSB has welcomed them and, in turn, they have become regular guests, making their Berlin debuts with the orchestra.
Moreover, the RSB has been a platform for contemporary composers, both on the podium and as soloists. Visionaries such as Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schönberg, and more recently, Krzysztof Penderecki, have graced the orchestra’s stage. The RSB has also fostered the position of Composer in Residence, hosting artists like Brett Dean and Marko Nikodijević.
In addition to their symphony and chamber music performances, the RSB actively engages with younger audiences through family and children’s concerts. Many of the musicians are deeply committed to chamber music and various ambitious projects for youth. A substantial portion of the orchestra’s activities are devoted to nurturing the next generation.
The orchestra’s partnership with Deutschlandradio, including Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandfunk Kultur, plays a pivotal role in making their performances accessible to a broader audience, with many of their symphony concerts broadcast globally through the European Broadcasting Union (Euroradio). The collaboration with Deutschlandradio has also led to numerous award-winning CD recordings.
With a history spanning nearly a century, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin stands as a beacon of musical excellence, demonstrating a remarkable ability to adapt and thrive, all while remaining dedicated to the timeless pursuit of musical artistry.