Longest serving Berlin Philharmonic players

Longest serving Berlin Philharmonic players


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2021

Two violinists are currently marking their 40th anniversary in the elite Philharmonic. See here.

Anyone know which musicians played longest in the band’s history?

UPDATE: We have an answer.


  • Andréas Olofsson says:

    Andreas Blau (flute) played from 1969 to 2015 if I’m not mistaken.

    • Rogerio says:

      An interesting follow-up question to ask:
      … and how many of these managed to shoe-horn into the orchestra not only their children, but also their grandchildren?

      • Robert Roy says:

        You don’t play in the Berlin Philharmonic unless you are successful in the audition process which is held in front of and voted on by the whole orchestra. The members would never allow anyone to infiltrate their ranks who wasn’t up to the required standard, no matter who or what their ‘pedigree’ was and to suggest otherwise is simply ridiculous.

      • BruceB says:

        That’s more a Vienna Philharmonic tradition. And the sons (yes, still sons, unless someone knows of a daughter) often match or surpass their fathers. Aren’t the Ottensamer brothers (clarinetists) the sons of a VPO clarinetist?

        • Magnus Berglöf says:

          Their (Daniel and Andreas) father was Ernst Ottensamer (1955-2017) who was principal clarinetist of the Vienna philharmonic orchestra. Daniel is principal clarinetist of the Vienna philharmonic and Andreas has the same position of the Berlin philharmonic.

        • John says:

          Patricia Hood-Koll second violinist in the VPO and daughter of Heinrich Koll, retired principal viola of the VPO.

        • Bill says:

          There’s at least one daughter. Patricia Hood-Koll is the daughter of former solo violist Heinrich Koll, and they did overlap in the orchestra. He has another daughter who plays in the Wiener Symphoniker.

          Yes, 2/3 of the “ClarinOtts” were sons of a former principal clarinet in the Philharmoniker.

          There have been a number of Philharmoniker members who play different instruments than their fathers. And at least one pair of brothers who did not get the gig from their father (another such possible pair is recently retired).

      • Gerry McDonald says:

        I think you’ll find that fine musicians often have offspring who are fine musicians – quelle surprise! In England there was just to quote one example, John First, principal clarinet CBSO and RLPO, his son David a successful London session musician and his grandson Oliver principal CBSO!

        • Anonymous says:

          …And also fine musicians discourage their offspring to follow them into the Profession, irrespective of they are brilliant, as a Real Job will be more beneficial – very apt during these covid days. Anyway, there are orchestras for amateurs who happen to be medics, lawyers, financiers!

      • Max Grimm says:

        “[…] how many of these managed to shoe-horn into the orchestra […]”

        Considering that >95% of the members’ children and relatives who are also musicians aren’t and weren’t ever members of the Berliner Philharmoniker themselves, apparently not many.

  • Axl says:

    If someone knows better, then please correct my anwsers but I think that the longest serving members are Andreas Blau and Peter Brem. Both have 46+ year history in band!

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    The great Andreas Blau was principal flute for 45 years!

    • BruceB says:

      And played wonderfully the entire time. From what I can tell, he retired because he was ready, not because everyone else was. Quite the role model.

      (See for comparison Dale Clevenger and Adolph Herseth, legendary principal horn and trumpet of the Chicago Symphony for about 10 years too many)

  • Andreas B. says:

    Who played longest I don’t know …
    The former principal bass players Rudolf Watzel, Rainer Zepperitz and Klaus Stoll all played well over 40 years in the Berlin Phil, afaik.

  • Novagerio says:

    Violinist Madeleine Carruzzo, she’s played with the BPO since 1982, and she was in fact the first full-time female member.

  • Dominic Fyfe says:

    Peter Steiner, the cellist (brother of photographer Christian Steiner), joined in 1948 and retired in 1995. He remained active in the Berlin Philharmonic Octet for many years after that, alongside Rainer Zepperitz, Gerd Seifert and violist Wilfried Strehle who served 42 years in the orchestra.

  • Fernandel says:

    Peter Brem and Andreas Blau.

  • Paul says:

    Is there a mandatory retirement age?

    • MacroV says:

      Supposedly 65 – they call it “Equal Injustice for All.” Andreas Blau retired at 65 but then stayed on another year while Mathieu Dufour got ready to take over. Daniel Stabrawa is 65 (soon 66) and is retiring this year; kind of a pity as he still plays wonderfully.

  • Did you? says:

    Did you just call the Berlin Philharmonic a “band”?

    I would expect that from a teenage twitch streamer who plays games online, but not from a classical music blog.

    Professional indeed.

    • Anon9 says:

      The orchestra is the place in a theater where the band plays.

    • Dimsky says:

      Did you?, to be helpful, it’s actually a term of endearment to call an orchestra a “band.” Kind of like calling a Strad a “fiddle.” As in, “That soloist has a really nice fiddle.” It’s part of the lexicon of orchestra world. Cheers!

    • BruceB says:



      See Dimsky’s comment. I still remember an interview with Pinchas Zukerman where he was talking about the 3rd movement of the Sibelius concerto and how hard he had to work on it in school: “Once you can play that — man, you’re a fiddle player!” (He was praising the soloist for an upcoming NACO concert, not himself, by the way)

      Lots of musicians call their instrument an “axe,” by the way… usually with affection. Conductors can be called “stick-wavers” with (or without) the greatest respect.

  • PaulD says:

    Hornist Stefan de Leval Jezierski has been with the orchestra since 1978.

  • Ernie R. says:

    Congratulations to them! All very familiar faces by way of the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    It’s an orchestra, not a “band”. Look up the difference in your music dictionary.

    • BruceB says:

      The Berlin Phil rarely marches when they play. That’s one way you can tell.

    • mikhado says:

      You are plainly not a musicia, you are however what this site has far too many of, a pompous, sanctimonious boor. Please, save your conservative outrage about declining standards and the fall of western civilization for the right-wing rage sites you no doubt frequent. Violinists often call their instruments “fiddle”, brass players call their embouchure “chops” and sometimes use “band” to describe our ensembles.

      • Londonmuso says:

        Thanks Mikhado. Seems many of the comments here are made by non musos, as they don’t know “The Language” of orchestral musicians – chops, band, fiddle, carver (conductor)snow blindness (empty diary)swift half, and the ability to lip read (tea/coffee orders for breaks!) pre Covid mask wearing days. Let’s hope these days shall return soon…
        And bravo to NL for keeping us informed.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Not that I need to justify myself to idiots like you two, but for your information, “mikhado” and “Londonmuso”, I AM in fact a musician.
        I attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where my percussion instructors were first-chair members of the SF Symphony.
        I played percussion professionally for 30 years, and my first paying engagements were when I was sixteen years old.
        I have performed with many of the most famous musicians of my time, including Seiji Ozawa, Byron Janis, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Anna Russell, and Duke Ellington.
        I have played in – and conducted – orchestras of all sizes, and have played in – and led – bands, both wind-instrument based and electric-guitar based.
        Being a percussionist and drummer, I have played in almost every style of music one might think of: classical, symphonic and marching band, jazz, musical theatre, rock, trad, blues, country, folk, ethnic, commercial, and pop.
        In my entire music career, I have NEVER ONCE heard a fellow musician refer to a symphony orchestra as a “band”.
        And you, “mikhado”, with your false and absurd statement: “Please, save your conservative outrage about declining standards and the fall of western civilization for the right-wing rage sites you no doubt frequent”: you obviously haven’t been on this site for very long.
        If you had been, you would know that I am fervently and vociferously anti-Trump, anti-GOP, anti-right-wing, anti-fascist, and anti MAGAt.
        So both of you: take a long walk off a short pier.

        • Paul says:

          The only conductor I’ve heard of that ever retired is Vladimir Ashkenazy.

          • Bill says:

            Never heard of that Haitink guy? Or Carlo Maria Giulini? Both were conductors of some note, both retired. That Toscanini chap, too.

          • BruceB says:

            ^ (Toscanini not by choice — or rather, he chose to retire when he had a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, during a concert. There’s a book of neurological curiosities entitled “Toscanini’s Fumble” that covers that and other interesting phenomena. (TIAs were not really known about then; they thought he had a stroke, or a kind of seizure, or something.))