The Philharmoniker Hamburg, in full the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg or Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra, is a major orchestra of northern Germany and, if its direct ancestors are taken into account, one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the whole of Europe. It is an important contributor to Hamburg's musical life, giving some 35 concerts a year in the city's venerable Laeiszhalle, at the new Elbphilharmonie hall, and elsewhere. The Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg as such came into existence in 1934 with the merger of the Philharmonische Gesellschaft Hamburg and the Hamburg Stadttheater Orchestra. The latter group traced its roots as far back as 1678; among its directors in the 18th century was Georg Philipp Telemann. The Philharmonische Gesellschaft or Philharmonic Society was a key institution during the Romantic era; guest performers and conductors included Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Prokofiev. After the merger, notable conductors have included Eugen Jochum (1933-1949), whose Bruckner performances were legendary, Wolfgang Sawallisch (1961-1973), Aldo Ceccato (the first non-German conductor, 1976-1982), Australia's Simone Young (the first female conductor, 2005-2015), and, since 2015, the U.S.-born Kent Nagano. The shorter Philharmoniker Hamburg name came into use in 2005; the full name also continues to be used. In addition to its own concerts, the orchestra continues to perform with the Hamburg State Opera and Hamburg Ballet, bringing its annual performance count to well over 250 and making it one of the world's busiest orchestras. Nagano, as general music director, has also established a new Philharmonic Academy at St. Michaelis, devoted to small-ensemble music of an often-experimental cast. The orchestra takes its municipal mission seriously and offers a vigorous educational program including performances in schools. Its recorded catalog is large; notable projects in the 2010s included a Bruckner symphony cycle and a set of Brahms symphonies under Young. In 2018 the Philharmoniker Hamburg under Nagano, released a recording of Jörg Widmann's Arche on the experimentally oriented ECM label. ~ James Manheim, Rovi

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