NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Formed in 1945 as the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra calls the Elbphilharmonie Grand Hall home.

The Orchestra

The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra performed at the inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie on 11 January with a diverse programme by composers ranging from Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) and Wolfgang Rihm (*1952). From now on, the resident orchestra plays a major role in development of the concert hall’s musical profile.

2020/21 Anniversary Season

Formed in 1945 on the initiative of the British military government in Hamburg, the orchestra is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020. First under the name »Symphony Orchestra of Northwest German Radio«, and later – after the split into two broadcasters in 1956 – as the »NDR Symphony Orchestra«, the orchestra laid the foundation for a new musical life in post-war northern Germany. They were soon undertaking foreign tours, and quickly became an established presence in the international music scene.

Today, the resident orchestra of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg – under the name »NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra« since 2016 – plays a key role in shaping the cultural profile of its home venue on the Elbe. Sounds and images from the world-famous concert hall are a familiar presence across Germany and beyond, not least thanks to the NDR’s concert broadcasts.

Orchester des Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunks 1947
Orchester des Nordwestdeutschen Rundfunks 1947 © NDR


The stages of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra’s development are closely tied to the names of the principal conductors who led it. The first, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, provided continuity for 25 years, shaping the orchestra’s unique character and profile. Later on, an intensive 20-year collaboration with Günter Wand was also significant. Wand, who served as principal conductor from 1982 and was appointed honorary conductor for life in 1987, cemented the orchestra’s international reputation.

Christoph Eschenbach was appointed principal conductor in 1998, and Christoph von Dohnanyi continued the line of renowned principal conductors from 2004. From 2011 to 2018, principal conductor Thomas Hengelbrock further shaped the history of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra with his delight in experimental interpretations. Alan Gilbert has been the chief conductor since 2019. The American conductor moved to Hamburg from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and has had a close relationship with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra for many years – he was the orchestra’s principal guest conductor from 2004 to 2015.

Alan Gilbert
Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert

Artistic Calling Card

Under the new principal conductor Alan Gilbert, the orchestra has further expanded its programme in a diverse and innovative way. In a range of concert formats, the programmes feature works from all genres, from Baroque to the present. The orchestra is also keenly aware of its social responsibilities, and is very active in its support of young music talents and in the field of music education.

In addition to its different concert formats in Hamburg, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra now also has its own concert series in Lübeck and Kiel, and plays a major role at the big music festivals in northern Germany. The orchestra underscores its international status on tours of Europe, North and South America, and on regular trips to Asia.

Krzysztof Urbański
Krzysztof Urbański © Joanna Urbańska