tue 18/06/2024

First Person: the Bayerisches Staatsorchester's Managing Director Guido Gärtner on its 500th anniversary | reviews, news & interviews

First Person: the Bayerisches Staatsorchester's Managing Director Guido Gärtner on its 500th anniversary

First Person: the Bayerisches Staatsorchester's Managing Director Guido Gärtner on its 500th anniversary

Reflections as the Bavarians give two Barbican concerts under Vladimir Jurowski

Guido Gärtner, not only at the helm of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester but also one of its violinistsGeoffroy Schied

Nine cities in seven countries; all in all, eleven concerts, on top of that, an appearance at home in Munich. Celebrating its 500th anniversary, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester is currently on an extended journey. We have been looking forward with great anticipation to this tour during which we are aiming to present everything from our longstanding tradition that has stood the test of time and share it with a great number of music lovers throughout Europe.

The Bayerisches Staatsorchester (Bavarian State Orchestra) can count itself lucky to be able to call the National Theatre in Munich home (pictured below). This space, where members come together for performances of opera, ballet, and symphonic music, but also for rehearsals, is much more than a workplace. It is a home in which a multitude of memories are shared. For our orchestra, being rooted in the centre of Munich at the Max-Joseph-Platz, as an integral part of the great organism that is the Bayerische Staatsoper, is the core of its existence. At home, not just in the pit, but also on the stage of the National Theatre, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester with its Musical Academy is also one of the world’s oldest concert orchestras. It has made an important contribution to the city’s cultural fabric from as early as 1811. NAtional Theatre MunichIn that year, Maximilian Joseph I of Bavaria issued an order that still maintains its effect today. This order, which says a lot about the far-sightedness of the artists involved and their king, granted the musicians of the court orchestra of that time “to be allowed, on such festival days when no theatre performances are allowed, to give big concerts in the Royal Playhouse and during the winter a number of subscription concerts in the Royal ‘Redouten-Saal’". With that, the Musikalische Akademie was born and, with the “Akademiekonzerte” under royal protection, the first symphonic concert series in Munich too – since then accounted for by the orchestra members themselves.

In the Academy Concerts the orchestra has been and continues to be influenced by great and, often, legendary conductors, such as Hans von Bülow, Richard Strauss, Hermann Levi, Bruno Walter, Carlos Kleiber, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Zubin Mehta, Kirill Petrenko and Vladimir Jurowski. Some of the most important musicians of their times, such as Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Edvard Grieg and Richard Strauss to name a few, contributed to the Academy Concerts as visiting artists.

Richard Strauss conducts the Bayerisches Staatsorchester in Eine Alpensinfonie (recorded in 1941)


The Bayerisches Staatsorchester can thus consider itself fortunate to be at home in the world of opera as well as that of concert performances, embracing both within its essence. Even though these two worlds may differ, they also complement one another. The exactitude and cohesion gained in the concert hall make their presence felt from the orchestra pit during opera performances too. Equally, spontaneity and agility as well as an instinct for drama and affect are so ingrained within the soul of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester that they manifest with the same intensity on the podium.

Performing as a concert orchestra in contrast to opera, our ensemble functions as an artistically self-contained, and thus, spatially untethered collective. This autonomy offers the musicians the welcome opportunity to travel.

To this end, the Musical Academy has founded its own company – the Bayerisches Staatsorchester Konzert GmbH – which organises all activities outside of the opera service in the narrower sense and which I have had the honour to be in charge of as Managing Director since 2012, alongside my duties as violinist in the orchestra. In addition to touring, the company’s fields of activity also include the in-house label Bayerische Staatsoper Recordings, which was launched as a joint venture with the opera house in 2021 and which has made quite an impact in its augural year when it won no less than four accolades at the prestigious Gramophone Awards in 2022. (Pictured below by Mark Allan: Vladimir Jurowski conducting the Bayerisches Staatsorchester at the Barbican last night, 18 September) Bayerisches Staatsorchester and Jurowski at the BarbicanIt is with a great sense of joy and pride that the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, as ambassador for the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, and Bavaria, regularly embarks on a mission to convey its excellence and tradition to the wider world. In previous years, the ensemble has enhanced its presence as a symphonic orchestra thanks to concert performances in musical centres such as New York, London, Paris, Lucerne, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Taipei, Seoul and Tokyo.

As is the case with every ensemble operating on the international stage, it is a top priority for the Bayerisches Staatsorchester to allow concert audiences beyond Munich to access and experience it. But concertare stands not only for harmony, but also competition – and the Bayerisches Staatsorchester is intent upon asserting its position among the leading symphony orchestras in the music capitals of the world and at the most renowned festivals. In doing so, it seeks to live up to both its own expectations and its reputation. It goes without saying that performing in the city of London ranks among the greatest honours for any music ensemble, and we are thrilled to be back at the Barbican where so many admired artists have entered the stage before.

Above all, a tour allows the orchestra to evolve. Through the synergy of orchestra, conductor and soloists, interpretations grow and mature from place to place. Being frequently required to adapt to a new venue, its acoustic characteristics, and its audience demands and develops enormous versatility. Furthermore, travel strengthens the orchestra members’ relationships and sense of belonging.

A short film in German about the 500th anniversary, including an excerpt of Jurowski conducting the Meistersinger Prelude

With Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde and Richard Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie, the programmes contain works by two “house gods” of the Bayerische Staatsoper: Wagner’s opera was first performed by our orchestra in 1865, and Strauss was at the helm of our orchestra for several years in the 1890s. Other works in the setlists, namely by Robert Schumann, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, Alban Berg and the Ukrainian composer Victoria Poleva, show the wide stylistic range of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester. Louise Alder and Elsa Dreisig (soprano), Yefim Bronfman (piano) and Vilde Frang (violin) are the distinguished soloists who accompany us on the journey. The musical direction of all concerts is in the hands of our General Music Director, Vladimir Jurowski.

In travelling, the idea of departure already contains within it the thought of return. And so it is that the Bayerisches Staatsorchester is always happy to return to its beloved home – carrying with it a precious bundle of shared experiences and memories.

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