German orchestra changes name

The celebrated NDR Symphony Orchestra – founded by the British occupying force and formerly conducted by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Klaus Tennstedt and John Eliot Gardiner – is to be rebranded with it moves into Hamburg’s new concert hall next January.

The new name is the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra (just trips off the tongue). The music director is Thomas Hengelbrock. Update your address books.


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  • Norman, any list of former chief conductors of the NDR Sinfonieorchester should definitely include Günter Wand (who at present is probably spinning in the grave). Is this name change a modern day Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/Konzerthausorchester Berlin attempt regarding the new Elbphilharmonie and its future resident orchestra?

      • If one compiles a condensed list of the orchestra’s chief conductors, I think Günter Wand should be included because at present he was the second longest serving chief conductor, the only conductor emeritus of the NDR Sinfonieorchester and arguably achieved the most significant rise in profile of the orchestra.

  • Indeed, it sounds a very 19th-century kind of name. And it doesn’t look destined to help outsiders to distinguish this ensemble from the NDR’s second (but also excellent) orchestra based in Hannover, which is now called the NDR Radiophilharmonie (and directed, I believe, by no less a figure than Andrew Manze).

    • Why 19th century? The Konzerthausorchester Berlin adopted this name in 2006. Before this, it was called Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, and the main reason that was given for the name change was to avoid confusion with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Berliner Symphoniker and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.

        • Hahaha, Jaybuyer, that’s too funny – Berlin has 4 full-time large symphony orchestras and 3 big opera houses, each of which have their own full orchestra, too, of course.

          • When it comes to “classical” music, there is really no better place. In addition to the many orchestras in Berlin, all the other many concerts with chamber orchestras and ensembles that go on all the time, and all the international guest orchestras that come through regularly, you also have Leipzig and Dresden within easy driving distance, and indeed Hamburg, too. And the last times, I was in Berlin, I did just that, I went to all three places to hear concerts there.

          • Don’t worry, I’ve already got my name on a ticket for the Elbphilharmonie in 2017 – after the Eröffnungsfeier, which is, of course, sold out.

          • Last time I was in Hamburg ca. 3 years ago, I went to hear the NDR SO with Bychkov at the Laeiszhalle and I also went to see the Elbphilharmonie. From the outside only, of course. It really is a very impressive building. It is also a very impressive financial and planning disaster, so I hope it will at least work out well as a concert hall. The one thing that crossed my mind is how are they going to get concert goers there effectively as it is sitting on that quay with very restricted access routes. The irony here is of course that the Laeiszhalle is one of the very few nice old concert halls in Germany that survived the war. But it really is quite small, so I can see why they want a new hall.

  • Klaus Tennstedt, when MD of the NDR orchestra toured with them in Europe. It was 1981. In Paris, after a not all that comfortable Mahler 1, I went backstage to see him. He was livid. For reasons which I will keep to myself, he let it be known that he would never conduct the orchestra again….. The manager reminded him that there was one more concert in Amsterdam the next day. Klaus made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that never meant, never. Kondrashin did the Amsterdam concert, sadly suffered a heart attack after the Mahler and died the same day. Klaus called me. “You see, they killed Schmidt- Isserstedt, now Kondrashin and they are not going to kill me”.

  • I heard the orchestra in two splendid concerts at the 1977 Granada Festival under Maazel. Both concerts started at 11.30 PM! Wonderful setting – the Palacio de Carlos V.

  • This is not the same orchestra as the Philharmonic, right? Our Australian Simone Young conducted that orchestra until quite recently. And that new building on the river is stunning.

    • No, it’s not the same orchestra. The NDR is the radio orchestra: NDR stands for North German (Deutsches) Radio Orchestra.

      Simone Young was the General Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera until the end of last season, and the Hamburg Philharmonic is in fact the Opera orchestra.

      • Indeed, succeeded by Nagano. Maybe worth pointing out that the ‘Hamburg Phil’ hasn’t exactly got the snappiest German name either, viz. Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg. It would be nice to think that the German music scene still compensates in substance and strength-in-depth for what it might lack in marketing pizazz.

        • Most orchestras don’t have fancy names. On the contrary, simple but iconic names like “London Symphony Orchestra” and “Wiener Philharmoniker” speak for themselves. Fancy names have nothing to do with artistic substance. And it’s not like “the German music scene” has one central marketing agency anyway.

  • A new name to go with the new hall and perhaps mission for a fine but not especially well-known orchestra might not be a bad idea, but what marketing genius came up with this one?

    • According to a clip on the orchestra’s YouTube channel, the musicians – among others – selected the new name in an attempt to bring the orchestra closer to their home audience and create an easily recognizable link with the city of Hamburg and the Elbphilharmonie. (German language only and as of yet, no subtitles)

    • Unfortunately, the NDR band only has a contract as the residential orchestra in the building called the Elbphilharmonie for ten years, in other words not in perpetuity. Now imagine the situation at the end of a decade when the decision is taken to appoint a different band as the orchestra-in-residence. That would involve another change in name. A comparison springs to mind with all those Latin American banana republics that change their street names whenever there is a revolution…….

      • Except the NDR is the leading symphony orchestra in all of northern Germany, so it is rather unlikely that a different “band” will usurp their place at the Elbphilharmonie.

    • The orchestra is very well known among all those who know a little bit about “classical” music, Macrov. It is also one of the most highly regarded orchestras in Germany, and among orchestral musicians, one of the most desirable orchestras to be in.

  • The new name may sound weird to an English audience, but it flows easily if German is your native language. But to leave out Günter Wand from the list of conductors is nothing short of criminal. For anyone who grew up in that area of Germany at that time (like I did) and who has more than a passing interest in music, Maestro Wand is God. Period.

    • Friends of mine worshipped him, too. No chickens themselves, they would drive from Münster to Hamburg whenever he was conducting Bruckner.

      • Sounds familiar 😉 Attending a Wand concert or even listening to one on the radio was like a service in church, and I am not exaggerating in any way, form or shape. Somehow the old and fragile man exuded an energy and a devotion which could easily look like a benign (or, at times, wrathful) god. I know that I sound like a teenage girl talking to her “dear diary”. But that is really how it felt to many, many people.

        Hearing Wand celebrate Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak and esp. Bruckner meant that you were floating away into the pure blue sky. There are many Wand concerts preserved on youtube, and I think that even via that medium you get a glimpse of the serenity and perfection that he conveyed. When he died it felt like a loss in the immediate family.

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