Touring is in the blood of the Berliner Philharmoniker – and has been from the very beginning. Just a few days after the orchestra was founded in 1882, the musicians embarked on their first, short tour. To this day, touring is an important aspect in the lives of the Philharmoniker. However, the reasons for touring have changed. While the tours in the early years were primarily intended to ensure the economic survival of the still young ensemble – the annual trip to the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen, where the Philharmoniker entertained its glamorous spa guests between 1885 and 1911 should be mentioned in this context – the orchestra grew more and more into the role of a musical ambassador as its reputation grew.
Out into the world
At the request of Emperor Wilhelm II, the orchestra travelled to Moscow to give a concert for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896. The first guest performance in Paris, which took place the following year under the direction of the then chief conductor Arthur Nikisch, is also legendary: the Parisians were still suffering after their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, and the police president feared riots against the German musicians. But Nikisch and the Philharmoniker delighted audiences with their music-making and in the end gained a loyal fan base. In the era of Wilhelm Furtwängler, the orchestra’s touring activities experienced further highlights. For the conductor, it was beyond question that the tours broadened the musicians’ horizons and made them more cosmopolitan. After the terrors of National Socialism and the Second World War, it was necessary to regain lost international prestige – and here too the Berliner Philharmoniker played a decisive role as “musical icebreakers”. During the first US tour in 1955 with Herbert von Karajan, for example, the Philharmoniker were initially met with “Nazis go home” placards, but dispelled all resentment with their appearances and their playing. The first tours to Japan and China were also dedicated to international understanding, not to forget the two emotional trips to Israel in the early 1990s.
In the Claudio Abbado era, the Berliner Philharmoniker established the “European” concerts, which take place every year on 1 May in places of cultural and historical importance on the continent. With Sir Simon Rattle, the Philharmoniker ventured repeatedly to “new shores”: Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Abu Dhabi, Sidney... Today, the orchestra, in which musicians from 28 nations play, is a global player with fans all over the world. The example of the Digital Concert Hall, the orchestra’s virtual concert hall, shows just how inspiring touring can be for its members: without the overwhelming experience of their tours and of having a large fan base overseas, the idea for this Internet platform would certainly never have come about.
In Germany, Europe, Israel and Japan
This season, too, the tours reach far around the globe. After the traditional festival tour at the beginning of the season which the Philharmoniker undertook with its new chief conductor, they are travelling to Japan as part of the overseas tour in November. They will be accompanied by a long-standing artistic friend: Zubin Mehta, who has been an honorary member of the orchestra since February 2019. Kirill Petrenko joins the orchestra again in February, when the Philharmoniker go on tour and introduce themselves with their new chief conductor to a number of German cities. The next concert tour with Petrenko follows in May; starting with the European Concert which – to commemorate of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the end of the Second World War – takes place in Tel Aviv, followed by further stations in Jerusalem, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam, Brussels and Luxembourg. The tour programme of works by Gustav Mahler allows the new chief conductor to present himself with the Philharmoniker for the first time as a Mahler interpreter – as the highlight of an exciting year of tours.