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.
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Über 60 Jahre Freunde der Berliner Philharmoniker e.V.: Der Verein stellt sich vor
Goals and Support
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.
Here are some examples of how we have supported the Berliner Philharmoniker so far
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2021 The Friends open their own YouTube channel, where discussion programmes and matinees are streamed, beginning with a “Rendez-vous” with principal flutist Emmanuel Pahud.
2018 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.
2017 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.
2015 The Abbado bust by Bertrand Freiesleben, which was donated by the Friends, is unveiled and displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie.
2014 Prof. Dr. Klaus Rauscher takes up the office of chairman of the executive board of the Friends.
2008 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.
2007 Following the death of Dr. Wolfgang Bühler, Prof. Dr. Manfred Erhardt is elected chairman of the board.
2002 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.
2000 The Society publishes its first annual report.
1999 All the Berliner Philharmoniker become members of the Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie.
1998 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.
1996 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.
1992 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.
1990 Claudio Abbado, the orchestra’s new chief conductor, is introduced to the Friends during an afternoon event.
1987 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.
1982 The Society of the Friends of the Berliner Philharmonie provides 1 million Deutschmarks for the construction of the Chamber Music Hall.
1981 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.
1979 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.
1969 The bust of Hans von Bülow is unveiled during a Sunday matinee.
1968 The Friends present their first Sunday matinee, during which the bust of Arthur Nikisch is displayed in the South Foyer of the Philharmonie.
1964 The Society of the Friends adopt new statues. The goals are now:
Funding and support of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Researching the history of the former Philharmonie
Construction of the Chamber Music Hall
1963 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.
1960 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.
1959 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.
1956 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.
1949 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.