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Staatskapelle Berlin Biography

Staatskapelle Berlin Tickets

Staatskapelle Berlin In-depth Biography

The Berlin State Orchestra} (Staatskapelle Berlin}) is one of several professional orchestras} of high repute in Berlin. It is the resident orchestra} of the Berlin State Opera} (located in the Unter den Linden Theater) and, although it is not the leading orchestra} of the city, it claims to be the oldest, tracing its ancestry to the year 1545, when the Elector of Brandenburg added a group of instrumentalists to the singers of his court chapel (Kapelle}). In 1696, it was named the "Kufurstlichen Hofkapelle" (Electoral Court Kapelle), and in 1701 this was changed to "Königliche (Royal) Kapelle." At that point {%King Friedrich I} started to enlarge the orchestra} (which had fluctuated in size to as few as seven members in 1640) to an ensemble} fit for a king. But {%Friedrich Wilhelm I} (1713-1740), interested only in the military and in hunting, laid off everyone but the brass} players.

His son, {%Friedrich II} (Frederick the Great), although even more of a military genius than his father, was also a passionate music-lover, a good flautist}, and a passable composer}. He not only revived the orchestra}, but also made his Berlin court a major musical center. The Kapelle} became an important part of court life, existing primarily to please the King and provide ceremonial music. It fell to other persons and various temporary ensembles} to begin a tradition of public concerts. The orchestra}, did not offer any concerts to which the public could buy tickets until 1783. This marked the transition of the orchestra} into the form of a modern symphony orchestra}, giving two or three concerts a year beginning in 1801.

Beginning in 1842, the scope of its season slowly began to expand, although it adhered to a very conservative repertoire}. In 1882, it gained major competition when the Berlin Philharmonic} was formed. (There had been a Berlin Philharmonic Society}, an amateur orchestra}, since 1826). Under Artur Nikisch} the Philharmonic} clearly outclassed the Kapelle}, despite the great advances in performance quality brought about when Joseph Weingartner} became music director (1892 - 1907). From 1908, the music director was the esteemed composer} Richard Strauss}, who remained into 1920.

At that time, with the overthrow of the monarchy, the Royal Kapelle} was renamed the Kapelle der Staatsoper} (Kapelle of the State Opera). The orchestra}'s operatic} work increased when the State Opera} founded a new contemporary opera theater (popularly known as the Kroll Opera}) in the 1920s. Wilhelm Furtwängler}, Erich Kleiber}, and Bruno Walter} were among its conductors}. Herbert von Karajan} became its last conductor} (1940 - 1944) before the end of World War II. During the {%Hitler} era the orchestra} had been renamed simply "Die Staatskapelle" (1934) and then the "Prussian Staatskapelle" (1944). It became Staatskapelle Berlin} in 1945.

The American and Western powers each established a Radio Orchestra}, and in 1949 East Germany set up the Berlin Symphony Orchestra} as a rival to West Berlin's Philharmonic}. Concertgoers could attend all the concert series until 1961 when East Germany closed its borders and built the Berlin Wall. In 1948, Joseph Keilberth} became music director, but left in 1952 for Hamburg in the face of political interference. Franz Konwitschny} succeeded him, but for most of the life of the DDR the Staatskapelle}'s conductor was the Austrian Otmar Suitner} (1964 - 1990).

The members of the orchestra} participated in the events leading up to the collapse of the German Democratic Republic. In September, 1989, they sent a resolution to the leadership of East Germany calling for it to democratize its constitution, then organized a private "Konzert gegen die Gewalt" in November 1989.

Daniel Barenboim} became its Artistic Director in 1991.

~ Joseph Stevenson, All Music Guide

Staatskapelle Berlin Biography / Staatskapelle Berlin Information

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