Hotbeds of musical talent

The National Youth Orchestra of Germany and the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie

What do Sabine Meyer, Christian Tetzlaff, Tabea Zimmermann and Alban Gerhardt have in common? They are not only internationally successful soloists, they are all also former members of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany. Since 1969, this orchestra has offered young instrumentalists between the ages of 14 and 19 – most of them winners of the German national “Jugend musiziert” competition – the opportunity to gain their first experiences of a symphony orchestra at a professional standard. The admission procedure is already like the professionals, and only those who pass the audition can become members. Three times a year the young people come together to rehearse a concert programme which they subsequently take on tour under the leadership of experienced orchestral musicians and conductors such as Gerd Albrecht, Heinz Holliger or Kurt Masur.

In 2008 the National Youth Orchestra of Germany made their first appearance in Scharounʼs temple of the muses, the Philharmonie, at the invitation of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation together with Sabine Meyer as the soloist and Michael Boder as the conductor. Since then, they have come to Berlin every year, the young members always impressing audiences with their sheer joy of music-making. In 2011, Sir Simon Rattle was the conductor and said enthusiastically:, “What a pleasure it is to meet this wonderful new generation of musical colleagues.” The National Youth Orchestra of Germany gives about 25 concerts every year, and not only in Germany but all over the world. As musical ambassadors for Germany they have performed in countries such as Venezuela, the USA and Poland. On 8 April 2013 they make their next appearance at the Philharmonie – with a programme in which the music of the Orient and Occident meet. There are, incidentally, 18 former members of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany among the Berliner Philharmoniker.

While their experience in the National Youth Orchestra of Germany often contributes to the young musicians deciding on a musical career, the first step on the career ladder has already been taken by members of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie. These instrumentalists, aged between 18 and 28, are already studying at German music colleges and are amongst the best in their field. They want to be orchestral musicians and are preparing themselves in the best way possible for their future careers through their involvement in this orchestra. And not only that: The Junge Deutsche Philharmonie is an orchestra in which the members participate democratically in the planning of the programme as well as in the choice of conductors and soloists. Contemporary music is an important focus of their repertoire and is included in almost every concert programme.

The concerts which the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie have given in the Philharmonie have also demonstrated this special programming concept. For their first appearance at the invitation of the Berliner Philharmonker Foundation in 2002, the programme, in addition to Joseph Haydnʼs Symphony No. 45 and excerpts from Richard Wagnerʼs Tristan und Isolde, also included Hans Werner Henze’s Tristan Préludes. Last year, under the direction of Kristjan Järvi, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie performed Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie in Berlin, which they played – according to the critic of the Tagesspiegel – “with energy and effervescence”. For their next concert in Berlin on 19 March, they will perform Gustav Mahlerʼs Ninth Symphony. This time, Jonathan Nott is at the helm, principal conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. What attracts him to working with this student orchestra? “The young musicians always have a very special energy, and it is a particular responsibility for a conductor to give structure to this energy,” he revealed in an interview.