MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra (biography in English)

Das MDR-Sinfonieorchester im Konzert.
Bildrechte: MDR/Andreas Lander

Germany’s oldest radio orchestra presents itself just a few years before its centennial in 2024 as one of the liveliest and most innovative in Europe. In addition to its regular presence in all media, the orchestra delights a wide public with its more than 50 concerts a year in the area served by MDR and on tour in Germany and abroad.

The MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra is rooted in the region of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia, a region whose musical culture has been shaped by composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, and Kurt Weill. The MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra takes the innovative spirit of these composers into the present.

Dennis Russell Davies holds the position of Principal Conductor since the summer of 2020, and his goal is to both foster the symphonic roots of the orchestra and take it into the 21st century. His wide range of repertoire displays the versatility of the MDR Leipzig Radio orchestra – may it be Bruckner, Haydn, Ives, Strawinsky, Henze, Glass or Adams.

MDR-Sinfonieorchester, Gruppenbild
MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra Bildrechte: MDR/Andreas Lander

Before him, Kristjan Järvi – Principal Conductor from 2013 until Summer 2018 and successor to Hermann Abendroth, Herbert Kegel, Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Fabio Luisi, and Jun Märkl – has expanded the orchestra’s profil through new programatic impulses and concepts and with guests who are not only at home in the classical music world, such as Aziz Sahmaoui, Django Bates, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Francesco Tristano, DJ Mr. Switch, Stefano Bollani, Bryce Dessner, Hauschka, múm, Max Richter and Anoushka Shankar.

Renowned conductors have time and again been at the desk of the orchestra, as have theri younger colleagues. In recent years it was Neeme Järvi, Dennis Russell Davies, Krzysztof Urbański, Stefan Asbury, James Gaffigan, Markus Stenz, Alain Altinoglu, Roberto Abbado, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Kazuki Yamada, Michael Jurowski, Simone Young, Ludovic Morlot, Robert Trevino, Michael Francis, Alexander Shelley, Ariane Matiakh, Klaus Mäkelä, Marie Jacquot and many others. Concerts featuring artists such as Julia Fischer, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Alexander Toradze, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Pekka Kuusisto, Gabriela Montero, Nils Mönkemeyer, Antoine Tamestit, Antje Weithaas, have been reflecting the diversity of the orchestra’s repertoire; to collaborations with composers like Tan Dun, Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt have been added recently the names of Kurt Schwertsik, Steffen Schleiermacher and others.

Furthermore, the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra has made studio recordings of numerous soundtracks, including: the music of the series "Sense8" by Andy and Lana Wachowski as well as Tom Tykwer's films "Cloud Atlas", "Hologram for a King" and his series "Babylon Berlin".