The Münchner Philharmoniker or Munich Philharmonic Orchestra has attracted many star conductors, some of them controversial.
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Münchner Philharmoniker Biography

by James Manheim

The Münchner Philharmoniker (Munich Philharmonic) is an orchestra with a troubled past but a bright future. Tainted by its association with Nazism during World War II, the orchestra was led in the early 1980s by the notoriously mercurial Sergiu Celibidache. Although it had roots stretching back to the beginning of the 19th century, the Munich Philharmonic really began in 1893 with establishment of the Kaim Orchestra, founded by a private donor of that name. During World War I, the orchestra foundered, and after the war it was taken over by Munich's city government and given the Münchner Philharmoniker name. Under conductor Hans Pfitzner in the 1920s the orchestra improved, but in the 1930s it began using a swastika logo and billed itself as the orchestra of fascism. Once again, the group had to rebuild after World War II, with Rudolf Kempe among the conductors who raised it to international stature. A key event in the orchestra's history was the elevation of Sergiu Celibidache to the music directorship in 1979; his leadership had both positive (his interpretations were novel and rigorously rehearsed) and negative impacts (he became embroiled in an expensive and ultimately successful sex discrimination lawsuit filed by American trombonist Abbie Conant, who had won her place in a blind audition). Celibidache also declined to make recordings, believing the concert experience could not be duplicated. That situation changed slowly in the 21st century with prominent new music directors after Celibidache's death. These have included James Levine, Christian Thielemann, Lorin Maazel, and, since 2014, Valery Gergiev, who has recorded several albums and used the orchestra as a showcase for his instrumental-music thinking in large late Romantic works, including the symphonies of Mahler. Gergiev and the orchestra have embarked on a cycle of Anton Bruckner's symphonies; their recording of the Symphony No. 1 in C minor appeared in 2018 on the orchestra's own label. Since 1985, the orchestra's home has been Munich's handsome Gasteig Culture Center.

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