Entrance of the Philharmonie Berlin | Picture: Peter Adamik

When our association was founded in 1949, there was only one goal: to help the Berliner Philharmoniker build a new concert hall in devastated post-war Berlin. With great personal and financial commitment, the members contributed substantially to the construction of Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonie and later the building of the Chamber Music Hall as well. Today, the Friends are primarily involved in purchasing and financing instruments, but our support projects also include improving the facilities of the Philharmonie, particularly its sound system, a critical examination and presentation of the orchestra’s history and the complete refurbishment of the organ in the Philharmonie.

Who are the Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker?

Video: Adam Janisch

Support, sponsorship, assistance – the Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker demonstrate their commitment in a variety of ways:

  • Purchase of high-quality instruments
  • Improvement of the facilities in the Philharmonie, for example, the sound system and the design of the Foyer
  • Critical examination and presentation of the orchestra’s history
  • Support of specific orchestra projects

Last but not least, the board members of our association provide advice and support to the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation.

How we have supported the Berliner Philharmoniker so far (a selection)

Purchase of high-quality instruments

The Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker regularly provide the musicians with high-quality instruments, including historical instruments: a new harp in 2020, a Steinway concert grand piano in 2018, a viola made by Domenico Busan (Venice 1780) in 2016, a violin from the workshop of Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (Milan 1754) in 2013, purchased from Axel Gerhardt, a former member of the Philharmoniker, and a heckelphone in 2011. In addition, the Friends subsidized the refurbishment of the organ in the Great Hall.

Musician with a viola on stage
Handover of a viola to Joaquín Riquelme García | Picture: Peter Adamik

Multifunctional: the new mobile video studio

An inconspicuous wagon has stood on the east side of the Chamber Music Hall since June of 2020. When you open the door, you are suddenly in an ultramodern video studio with six workstations – from the production manager to the camera and score assistants. As a result, music projects, family concerts and the appearances of the Karajan Academy can now be recorded in the Chamber Music Hall – with the same image quality as in the Great Hall of the Philharmonie. Thanks to the financing by the Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker, this project was completed within one year.

Mobile studio for the chamber music hall

Concert support

The Friends also support the organization of special concert events, such as Kirill Petrenko’s inaugural concert as chief conductor at the Brandenburg Gate. The Europakonzert, which is presented every year on 1 May in different European cities, is also supported by us.

Abbado bust

In memory of Claudio Abbado, who passed away in 2014, the Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker contributed a bust of the conductor. The sculpture, which was unveiled on 11 October 2015 in the Foyer of the Philharmonie, is a work by the sculptor Bertrand Freiesleben, who modelled Abbado’s head using photographs and video material. Martin Hoffmann, the general manager at that time, paid tribute to the sculpture with the following words: “It fills us with great joy to create a special place of personal remembrance for Claudio Abbado with this bust.” The Abbado bust was displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie, along with those of the other late former chief conductors of the orchestra.

Zum Andenken an Claudio Abbado

The Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker (formerly the Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie) have supported the orchestra since 1949 – with enthusiasm, motivation and commitment. The goals we strived for were not always easy to achieve. It was necessary to overcome a great deal of resistance to the construction of the Philharmonie and the Chamber Music Hall. The challenges facing the association have changed over time. The focus of its involvement is no longer construction projects but the immediate needs of the orchestra and its musicians. This short timeline gives a brief overview of the history of the Friends from the beginnings until today.

General refurbishment of the organ in the Main Auditorium supported by the Friends 

The Friends open their own YouTube channel, where discussion programmes and matinees are streamed, beginning with a “Rendez-vous” with principal flutist Emmanuel Pahud.

The mobile video studio for the Chamber Music Hall, financed by the Friends, goes into operation.

The series “Rendez-vous” is launched exclusively for supporters and patrons: an opportunity to meet prominent members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley is the guest at the premiere.

The discussion series “Let’s talk about music” is established. During the first programme, the orchestra’s new general manager, Andrea Zietzschmann, responds to questions from Susanne Stähr.

The Abbado bust by Bertrand Freiesleben, which was donated by the Friends, is unveiled and displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Rauscher takes up the office of chairman of the executive board of the Friends.

The Society changes its name to Friends of the Berliner Philharmoniker by resolution of the general meeting. At the same time, three categories of members are introduced: patrons, supporters and friends.

Following the death of Dr. Wolfgang Bühler, Prof. Dr. Manfred Erhardt is elected chairman of the board.

The Berliner Philharmoniker are reorganized as the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. The Society is actively involved in this process. The new chief conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, is introduced during a matinee.

The Society publishes its first annual report.

All the Berliner Philharmoniker become members of the Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie.

A board of trustees is appointed for the Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie. The honorary chairman, Dr. Wolfgang Stresemann, passes away on 6 November.

The outgoing general manager of the Philharmoniker, Dr. Ulrich Meyer-Schoellkopf, hands over the chairmanship of the board of the Friends to Dr. Wolfgang Bühler.

The bust of Herbert von Karajan purchased by the Friends is displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie. Dr. Wolfgang Stresemann, who served as general manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker from 1959 to 1978 and from 1984 to 1986 and was also chairman of the board of the Friends, passes both offices on to his successor, Dr. Ulrich Meyer-Schoellkopf. Stresemann is appointed honorary chairman of the Friends.

Claudio Abbado, the orchestra’s new chief conductor, is introduced to the Friends during an afternoon event.

Gala opening of the Chamber Music Hall with Anne-Sophie Mutter, the orchestra and Herbert von Karajan in a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Black and white photo of the foyer of the Kammemusiksaal with guests and musical instruments
Inauguration celebrations of the chamber music hall

The Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie provides 1 million Deutschmarks for the construction of the Chamber Music Hall.

After the building of the Chamber Music Hall is postponed due to Berlin’s tight financial situation, the Friends begin the campaign “Save the Chamber Music Hall” and collect donations for the building.

The Friends procure 6 million Deutschmarks from profits of the German class lottery so that the Philharmonie can maintain its outer shell and thus retain its distinctive appearance, which is still acclaimed to this day.

The bust of Hans von Bülow is unveiled during a Sunday matinee.

The Friends present their first Sunday matinee, during which the bust of Arthur Nikisch is displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie.

The Society of the Friends adopt new statues. The goals are now:

  1. Funding and support of the Berliner Philharmoniker
  2. Researching the history of the former Philharmonie
  3. Construction of the Chamber Music Hall

The new Philharmonie celebrates its gala opening with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The original goal of the Friends has thus been achieved, but the general meeting decides that the Society shall continue to exist and adopt new statutes.

The construction of the new Philharmonie is approved, and the foundation stone is laid. The Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie contributes 1.5 million Deutschmarks to the estimated construction cost of 13.5 million Deutschmarks.

The Berlin Senate decides to relocate the construction site of the Philharmonie from Wilmersdorf to Kemperplatz, the present location of the building. The Friends sign the contract with architect Hans Scharoun.

The Senate votes to build a new concert hall with 2,000 seats. Hans Scharoun emerges as the winner of the architectural competition for the new Philharmonie. The building is initially to be located on the Bundesallee in Wilmersdorf.

From 1950
The Society collects funds for the construction of a new Berlin Philharmonie with lotteries and benefit concerts.

View of the Philharmonie raffle in Steglitz, Schildhornstraße on the corner of Schloßstraße | Picture: Archiv der Gesellschaft der Freunde der Berliner Philharmoniker e. V.

The Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie is founded as a registered association on 17 October. Its goal is to raise funds for a new concert hall for the Berliner Philharmoniker, which became “homeless” after the former Philharmonie was destroyed during the Second World War.