50 years of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany

Ingo Metzmacher makes a guest appearance at the Philharmonie

German National Youth Orchestra 2018
(Photo: Selina Pfrüner)

For the Berliner Philharmoniker, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany is more than an orchestra of highly talented youngsters: as its patron, they feel particularly attached to this top-class, youthful ensemble. Many members of the Berliner Philharmoniker themselves once played in the National Youth Orchestra of Germany. The inspirational experience they gained there encouraged them in their decision to become orchestra musicians. But that’s not all: many former members, such as Sabine Meyer, Christian Tetzlaff, Tabea Zimmermann and Alban Gerhardt, are today successful soloists.

At a professional level

The ensemble was founded by the German Music Council in 1969 to introduce highly gifted instrumentalists between the ages of 14 and 19 to professional orchestral playing. Only the best get the opportunity. As with professional orchestras, the applicants, many of who are prize winners of the German national “Jugend musiziert” competition, have to audition to qualify. What then awaits those who pass this selection procedure are three rehearsal phases per year: they rehearse a demanding symphonic concert programme under the guidance of experienced lecturers – including members of the Berliner Philharmoniker – during which they develop their feeling for tonal quality, intonation and interaction. Added to that is the invaluable experience of being part of a greater whole. In the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, which gives about 25 concerts each year in Germany and abroad and regards itself as a musical ambassador for Germany, the young instrumentalists not only have the opportunity to learn from orchestra professionals, but also to play under great conductors: Kurt Masur, Gerd Albrecht, Gustavo Dudamel and Sir Simon Rattle, for example, are among those who have motivated the ensemble with their energy and charisma to the highest level.

Performances in Berlin and Baden-Baden

Since the Berliner Philharmoniker took over the patronage of the National Youth Orchestra of Germany in 2013, it has been a matter close to their hearts to pass on their musical knowledge and skills to the next generation. Every year, their protégés are invited to give a concert in Berlin plus a performance at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden, where the National Youth Orchestra of Germany regularly participates as part of the music festival – a special highlight for the up-and-coming musicians because they are supported by members of the Philharmoniker who play side by side with them. Master classes with individual Philharmoniker instrumentalists and a football game in which the youngsters compete against the orchestra professionals complete their time in Baden-Baden.

To mark its 50th birthday, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany were invited to give two concerts at the Berlin Philharmonie in 2019 – under the direction of two world-class conductors: for the first concert, Kirill Petrenko, the future chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, was at the helm. The orchestra now returns for its second concert, in which Ingo Metzmacher, who is working together with the youth orchestra for the first time, conducts Edgard Varèse’s work Amériques and Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony – two compositions in which two contrasting musical worlds collide.

1970: Rehearsal with founding conductor Volker Wangenheim
(Photo: private)
2013: The Berliner Philharmoniker take over patronage of the German National Youth Orchestra
(Photo: Peter Adamik)
Baden-Baden 2019: The Philharmoniker oboist Dominik Wollenweber and his son Janós play side by side in the oboe section
(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)