The first musical hour on German radio – in October 1923 – launched the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB). Maintaining an ever-present awareness of what will soon be a 100-year tradition, conducted by conductor and artistic director Vladimir Jurowski since the fall of 2017, the orchestra stands for particularly unusual and sensational programmes in Berlin’s concert life. In the fall of 2019, Karina Canellakis took on the role of Principal Guest Conductor, and she sets her own artistic accents with the RSB.
Far beyond their concert programmes, Vladimir Jurowski and the orchestra are actively socially engaged with their themes of the season, such as environmental protection in “Of course RSB – Humanity and its habitat” in the 2018-19 season, and the motto “unbounded” honouring courageous and positive border crossings of all kinds in 2019-20.
In 2020-21 the RSB gave several charity concerts in front of hospitals and retirement homes, and called attention to the precarious situation of freelance musicians during the Corona pandemic. In addition, video live streams as well as radio concert broadcasts enabled and will continue to enable low-threshold, high-quality access to digital concert offerings for a wider audience. In March 2021 the RSB brought music to its “socially distanced” audiences at “couch concerts” with experts, spotlighting socially relevant themes.
In 2021, State Minister for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters supported the RSB’s “concert for everyone” model project, an inclusion project for the hearing-impaired and people with cognitive disabilities, which will be extended into the coming years.
Marek Janowski headed up the RSB from 2002 to 2016. He particularly worked with the orchestra on the great symphonic repertoire of the classical and romantic eras from German- and French-speaking countries. His standard-setting concertante Wagner cycle (2010-2013) attracted attention around the world, not least through live recordings of the ten operas for the PENTATONE label. A new chapter in the RSB’s recording activity kicked off with Vladimir Jurowski. Concertante opera performances were also continued, recently with acclaimed performances of Richard Strauss’s “Die Frau ohne Schatten” in Berlin and Bucharest, and in 2020 with Alban Berg’s Three Fragments from “Wozzeck”.
The RSB also explores contemporary music with great enthusiasm. Throughout its existence, the orchestra has welcomed significant composers from the 20th and 21st centuries. Brett Dean and Marko Nikodijević most recently held the post of Composer in Residence.
The former principal conductors include names such as Sergiu Celibidache, Eugen Jochum, Hermann Abendroth, Rolf Kleinert, Heinz Rögner and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Many successful conductors choose to make their Berlin debuts with the RSB and then remain closely associated with the orchestra, such as Alain Altinoglu, Jakub Hrůša, Omer Meir Wellber, Lahav Shani, Thomas Søndergård, Ariane Matiakh and Edward Gardner.
In addition to the symphony concerts in the Philharmonie and Konzerthaus Berlin, the RSB also plays chamber music at places full of atmosphere in Germany’s capital city. Numerous concert programmes, developed at times by the members of the orchestra themselves, address young people and curious children, including the successful “Rapauke macht Musik” series for children from 3 to 6 years of age.
Conducted by Frank Strobel, the RSB presents exemplary film music projects, including world premieres of reconstructed or newly composed music for silent films.
The orchestra vigorously fulfills its mission as a radio ensemble by realising, in addition to broadcasts of its concerts by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, Deutschlandfunk, rbb Kultur and European Broadcasting Union, numerous studio productions, often with forgotten or suppressed rarities of the repertoire. Guest performances often take the RSB to Japan and Korea, as well as well-known concert halls in Germany and Europe.