77 Years of DSO


Founded as RIAS Symphony Orchestra

15 November 1946


RIAS (Radio In the American Sector) is founded and financed by the American government in February 1946. As the broadcast station has no archive of its own, there is a tremendous need to produce both serious and light music – and this leads to the founding of an in-house symphony orchestra.

7 September 1947


First public concert of the RIAS Symphony Orchestra in the Titania Palast in Berlin-Steglitz. Walter Sieber, head of the RIAS music department at the time, conducts (see photo above).

Ferenc Fricsay – the first Chief Conductor



Elsa Schiller, head of the Art Music division at RIAS, goes in search of a Chief Conductor for the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. She encounters the young conductor Ferenc Fricsay at the Salzburg Festival, and is able to convince him to accept an appointment. Fricsay’s predilection is to conduct works by Mozart, Bartók and Kodály. He programs contemporary works at his concerts, or even conducts concerts consisting solely of new music. Names like Bartók, Berg, Schönberg and Stravinsky are not yet a matter of course in concert life; in this context, the orchestra gives many works their German or even world première. This is how it establishes its specific tradition as a top ensemble for contemporary music in the world. The instrumental soloists include Géza Anda, Claudio Arrau, Walter Gieseking, Friedrich Gulda and Margrit Weber, among others. Fricsay develops a particularly close working relationship with the singers Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Josef Greindl, Maria Stader and Ernst Haefliger.

September 1949


The first recording, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with Yehudi Menuhin and Ferenc Fricsay, is recorded in the Jesus Christ Church in Berlin-Dahlem.

The first name change – Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin



The Americans terminate their financial support for the RIAS Symphony Orchestra. The musicians do not want, however, to give up the artistic level they have developed with Fricsay, so they establish a civil law company.



Fricsay terminates his contract as Music Director, but maintains close ties to the orchestra. In the 1950s the orchestra plays under famous conductors, such as Karl Böhm, Georg Solti and Otto Klemperer. In addition, conductors of a new generation, namely Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bernhard Haitink and Lorin Maazel, take the podium to conduct the orchestra.



The civil law company founded previously is transformed into a limited company after the Berlin Lottery, the Berlin Senate and the Federal Ministry of the Interior resolve to support the orchestra with regular appropriations. Its name is changed to the Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO), because Radio Free Berlin, founded two years earlier (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg since May 2003), signs a production contract with the orchestra that is subject, however, to the condition of changing the name. Wolfgang Streseman becomes the first Director of the RSO.



Several recordings that are made under Ferenc Fricsay (including Bartók’s ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ and ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’, Mozart: ‘Don Giovanni’), are awarded the ‘Grand Prix du Disque’.


Ferenc Fricsay returns



Ferenc Fricsay returns to the RSO as Chief Conductor. When Wolfgang Stresemann leaves the orchestra as its Director, principal flutist Heinz Hoefs becomes Managing Director of the RSO.

28 September 1959


The first concert after Fricsay’s return coincides with the reopening of the Great Broadcasting Hall at the broadcaster Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) in Masurenallee. At the same time, it is a historic media event: the broadcast of the concert with Kodály’s ‘Psalmus hungaricus’ and Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor is the first stereophonic broadcast on German radio.

3 November 1959


The first concert in the ‘RIAS stellt vor’ (RIAS presents) series: young artists from all over the world are given the opportunity to make their debut. Among them, over the course of the years, there will be such famous names as Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle, Jessye Norman, Evgeny Kissin, Cecilia Bartoli and Christian Thielemann. The series is continued under the name ‘Debut on Deutschlandfunk Kultur’ through the present day.

August 1961


Construction of the Berlin Wall

November 1961


Television recording of the first in a series of workshops that shows rehearsals and performances with the RSO, conducted by its Chief Conductor. 25 years later, the critic Ulrich Schreiber calls Ferenc Fricsay “Germany’s first media artist”.

20 February 1963


Ferenc Fricsay dies after a lengthy illness.

Lorin Maazel and years without a Chief Conductor



Lorin Maazel becomes the new Chief Conductor of the RSO. He places a particular focus on the major works by Berlioz, Bruckner and Liszt. In addition, Maazel is a driving force behind the Mahler renaissance.



The RSO receives the ‘Critics’ Prize for Music’ for their significant commitment to contemporary music.

January 1973


Major Asia tour with Lorin Maazel



Years without a Chief Conductor: the orchestra works together closely with the conductors Erich Leinsdorf, Eugen Jochum, Gerd Albrecht, Gennadi Roshdestwensky and Neville Marriner. The fact that nothing gets lost in terms of musical level during this time period is thanks primarily to the orchestra’s internal cohesion and the musicians’ dedication.



The state of Berlin, RIAS and SFB become shareholders in the RSO GmbH, an important step towards ensuring the orchestra’s survival.



‘German Record Prize’ for the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft’s Ferenc Fricsay edition

Riccardo Chailly and Peter Ruzicka



The composer, musicologist and lawyer Peter Ruzicka becomes the RSO’s Artistic Director. He pursues a dramaturgically accentuated programming policy with thematic focus areas and symposia. The RSO attains international recognition as a leading ensemble in the field of avant-garde music.



29-year-old Riccardo Chailly becomes Chief Conductor of the RSO. Under his leadership and that of Director Peter Ruzicka, the orchestra experiences an enormous artistic flourishing. Chailly is a master in shaping large forms, as demonstrated in particular in his Mahler and Bruckner interpretations.



‘German Record Critics’ Award’, ‘Grand Prix du Disque’, ‘Prix Caecilia’

February/March 1985


Major US tour with Riccardo Chailly

starting in January 1986


In the television series organized with the SFB called ‘Wege zur neuen Musik’ (Paths to New Music), Gerd Albrecht presents works of contemporary composers in dialogue with them.


Vladimir Ashkenazy



Vladimir Ashkenazy becomes Chief Conductor of the RSO. He places a different focus each season, and is committed to contemporary music. With his wide-ranging programming, he makes a name for himself as a universal musician. In addition, he occasionally serves the orchestra as a pianist.

9 November 1989


Fall of the Berlin Wall

3 October 1990


Treaty on the unity of Germany. As a gift, the orchestra under Ashkenazy plays a concert with free admission at the Berlin State Opera Unter den Linden.



Günter Wand, with whom the orchestra experiences triumphant successes, becomes the First Guest Conductor of the RSO.

The second name change – Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin



To avoid confusion with other orchestras that make up part of Berlin’s reunified cultural scene, the RSO changes its name once again. From this time on, it is called Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO).



The broadcast stations Deutschlandfunk, RIAS and Deutschlandsender Kultur join together to form Deutschlandradio. The Rundfunk Orchester und Chöre GmbH (ROC) is founded to safeguard the existence of the ensembles associated with the radio: its members are the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the RIAS Kammerchor and, until 2001, the RIAS Big Band. The shareholders of the new GmbH (limited company) are: Deutschlandradio (40%), the Federal Republic of Germany (35%), the state of Berlin (20%) and the Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (5%).

May/June 1996


Tour to Russia, Korea and Japan with Vladimir Ashkenazy

16/17 November 1996


The DSO celebrates its 50th anniversary with distinguished guest conductors and soloists.



The orchestra undertakes its first tour of South America, as well as a major tour of the US with Vladimir Ashkenazy. Günter Wand is appointed Honorary Conductor.

Kent Nagano



Kent Nagano is appointed Chief Conductor and Music Director.



He leads the orchestra to engagements at the Salzburg Festival, to the festival theatre in Baden-Baden and to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Several of the opera productions that were created there are released on DVD: Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Parsifal’ from the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and Schreker’s ‘Die Gezeichneten’ from the Salzburg Festival.

December 2001


The orchestra and its Chief Conductor are acclaimed in Los Angeles with ‘Moses und Aron’ by Arnold Schönberg.



Beginning of DSO’s collaboration with harmonia mundi, resulting first in the release of CD recordings of Beethoven’s ‘Christ on the Mount of Olives’, Schönberg’s ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (awarded the ‘Diapason d’Or’) and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3.



The orchestra celebrates its 60th anniversary in this season without a Chief Conductor. Kent Nagano remains affiliated with the DSO as Honorary Conductor.

2007 to the present

Ingo Metzmacher



Ingo Metzmacher takes up his position as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the DSO. His extraordinary season programs follow a guiding motto which shapes their musical design. By launching the refreshingly different Casual Concerts format, Ingo Metzmacher emphasises the orchestra’s openness and addresses a new audience.



An intensified collaboration with the Phoenix Edition label is established with Ingo Metzmacher. Subsequently, there are released, among others, highly praised recordings of Hans Pfitzner’s cantata ‘Von deutscher Seele’ and the fairy-tale opera ‘Königskinder’ by Engelbert Humperdinck.



After thematic series on the ‘German soul’ and the ‘1909 awakening’, in his third and last season with the DSO Ingo Metzmacher traces the varieties of temptation as a driving force and a topos in music.



Under Ingo Metzmacher, the DSO opens the Salzburg Festival with the acclaimed premiere of the opera ‘Dionysos’ by Wolfgang Rihm. Tugan Sokhiev signs his contract with the DSO, and, starting in the 2010-11 season, is the designated Chief Conductor.



The DSO receives the Grammy Award for best opera recording for ‘L’amour de loin’ by Kaija Saariaho, conducted by Kent Nagano.

Tugan Sokhiev



Tugan Sokhiev becomes Chief Conductor and Music Director of the DSO. At the beginning of his tenure, Sokhiev attaches great importance to the French and Russian and Slavic repertoire. In their continued collaboration, his captivating Mahler and Brahms interpretations are also highly praised. With his impressive conducting capabilities, he continues to consolidate the DSO’s reputation as a top international orchestra. Three superbly reviewed recordings with the SONY Classical label emerge from intensive work on Sergei Prokofiev’s oeuvre, including the film music to ‘Ivan the Terrible’.



In the summer, the first ‘Symphonic Mob’ is carried into effect by the DSO. Germany’s largest spontaneous orchestra is a resounding success, and subsequently spreads across Germany.



Robin Ticciati becomes designated Music Director.

Robin Ticciati



Robin Ticciati takes up his post as the eighth Chief Conductor and Music Director of the DSO so far. He leads the orchestra into the eighth decade of its existence. His programming is characterised by great curiosity and openness – for example, at the beginning of his first season, he stages the innovative concert event ‘Parallax’ at Kraftwerk Berlin.



Under the title TRIKESTRA, a project series is created in the scope of which the DSO shapes novel and playful concert formats with players on the independent music scene.



In the fall of 2019, an Asia tour leads the orchestra with Robin Ticciati to Tokyo for a residency, and to China for concerts. In 2020, guest concerts follow, including in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie.



In the pandemic years 2020 and 2021, Robin Ticciati and the DSO, in co-production with EuroArts Music International and sounding images, make a series of extraordinary music films, including a production in Berlin’s Sisyphos club around Ondřej Adámek’s work ‘Dusty Rusty Hush’ and a film realization of Strauss’ ‘An Alpine Symphony’, with philosophical commentary from the legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner. These films were released in DSO’s media library, the DSO PLAYER.

15 November 2021


The orchestra is celebrating its 75th anniversary with jubilee concerts conducted by Ticciati. In the scope of the ’21-’22 anniversary season, the orchestra will also play under the leadership of all Chief Conductors who have shaped the DSO’s history since the turn of the millennium.

15 March 2022  

With a solidarity concert for Ukraine, the DSO sends a widely heard signal for peace and freedom. Under the patronage of Claudia Roth, Minister of State for Culture and the Media, renowned artists such as Lisa Batiashvili, Kirill Gerstein and Rolando Villazón come together in musical protest at the Philharmonie.