History of the Philharmonic Society

The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, Hungary's oldest functioning orchestra, looks back on a past of more than a century and a half.
Its firstconcert was given on 20 November 1853, under the baton of  Ferenc Erkel, who went onto conduct the orchestra's next sixty concerts. The Philharmonic Society, created after the Viennesemodel, is an independent body organised from musicians first of the National Theatre and later of the Opera House, directed by the chairman-conductor and the board of directors. Over the course of the century and a half of its existence the Society has been headed by only ninec hairman-conductors: the founder, Ferenc Erkel (1835-1871), followed by his son Sándor Erkel (1875-1900), then István Kerner (1900-1918), Ernő Dohnányi (1918-1960), János Ferencsik (1960-1967), András Kórodi (1967-1986), Erich Bergel (1989-1994), Rico Saccani (1997-2005) and György Győriványi Ráth directed the ensemble between 2011 and 2014. The current chairman-conductor is Pinchas Steinberg who was elected in 2014. Over the past 159 years (for almost 90 years as the country's only professional orchestra), the Philharmonic Orchestra has played a key rolein Hungary’s concert life, it has brought new compositions to the Hungarianpublic and has taken Hungarian music to foreign audiences too.

The Philharmonic Orchestra has given the first performance of over one hundred works, including the world premiere of Mahler's 1st symphonyin 1889. In keeping withits Manifesto, thePhilharmonic Society devotes special attention to new Hungarian compositions: Ferenc Erkel, Franz Liszt, Károly Goldmark, Ernő Dohnányi, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Leo Weiner, Pál Kadosa and Sándor Szokolay dedicated or wrote many works for the orchestra, and renowned composers - such as Brahms, Dvořák, Mahler, Mascagni, Prokofiev, Ravel, Respighi, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky also frequently conducted the Philharmonic Orchestra in performances of their works.Besides the chairman-conductors, numerous great conductors have played an important role in the life of the orchestra, among them János Richter, ArturNikisch, SergioFailoni and Otto Klemperer, and it would be almost impossible to list the many renowned conductors, soloists and singers who have appeared in concerts given by the oldestHungarian concert orchestra.

The Budapest Philharmonic reorganised its relationship with the HungarianState Opera,which made itpossible to secure its artistic developement. Building a bridge between its goldenpast and its future, the Orchestra is re-establishingit self as one of the leading Hungarian concert orchestras, bringing with it the special qualities of an ensemble playing the operatic repertoireon a daily basis. From the 2011/12 season the Orchestra invited contuctors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Ion Marin, Christopher Hogwood, JurajValcuha and Yuri Simonov. In its abonnements series the Orchestra performs 10 programmes in each concert season at he HungarianState Opera and aim stop pearatothervenues domestically and internationally as well to become one of Hungary’s leading cultural ambassadors.