Orchestras, Special Ensembles and Opera/Musical Theatre

The performances of symphony and chamber orchestras, opera and musical theatre and the various types of ensembles are an integral part of the music scene in Germany.

Under the first heading, professional symphony orchestras are grouped that are largely funded from public sources and whose musicians usually belong to the German Orchestra Union. In addition to the artistic director, the orchestra manager or – in the case of radio orchestras – division heads or radio directors are also named. In the case of independent orchestras, who in addition to concerts also play for operatic and musical theatre performances and for theatre orchestras, reference is made to the sub-section Opera and Musical Theatre. Information on the number of positions in the individual orchestras and their members’ commitment to any collective wage agreements are listed with reference to the journal Das Orchester. Other information, especially relating to the composition of the orchestras, is contained in detail in the Deutsche Bühnenjahrbuch.

Subsequently professional chamber orchestras are listed, special ensembles for contemporary music and early music and other musical ensembles where at least one half of the members are professional musicians and who perform for the general public. We have dispensed with inclusion of the numerous other chamber orchestras and ensembles in the semi-professional and amateur sector and have omitted chamber music ensembles and associations with a broader repertoire. This is for reasons related to undue length and the problems connected with collection of data (fluctuation and temporary nature of some ensembles, differentiating between professional, semi-professional and amateur ensembles, etc).

The ensembles for contemporary music that are listed concentrate on various facets of music of the 20th and 21st century, from the classic modern to avant-garde and experimental forms, sometimes in connection with theatre, dance, visual arts, cinema and other art forms. As with chamber music groups and ensembles for early music, these ensembles are listed with reference to the main focus of their repertoires, current size plus information on their instrumentation. Ensembles performing both contemporary and early music are grouped according to the main focus of their repertoire. There are a number of additional professional ensembles with a lot of contemporary music in their programmes, but a selection of these groups could not be included. The orchestras and choirs of the broadcasting corporations also have an important role in the composition and interpretation of contemporary music through the numbers of compositions that are commissioned and the performances of contemporary works.

Groups are listed under the heading Ensembles for Early Music that perform music from the Middles Ages to the early classics and sometimes later, with close reference to historical performance practices. Most of these ensembles then concentrate on certain epochs or periods within the long period covered by the term “Early Music”, one of the main reasons for this being the various problems connected with instrumentation and performance practices.

The publicly run and mainly publicly funded sector of opera and musical theatre represents by far the largest part of operatic and musical stage work in Germany. In addition to the publicly run opera houses, there are a number of mostly smaller houses (i.e. chamber operas and operetta theatres) that are privately run and which are also listed here – if they have a permanent ensemble. The privately run musical theatres are also included. Further information on the various establishments and personnel at the various opera and musical companies are available in detailed form in the Deutsche Bühnenjahrbuch. The orchestras of these companies are described under the heading symphony orchestras; professional choirs are grouped under the opera and musical theatres to which they belong and radio choirs can be found under the portal Radio and Television. The sub-section on musical companies lists private musical companies organised on a commercial basis whose productions are usually performed for a period of several months or years.

The music corps of the Bundeswehr, the national police, the police forces and civilian service are regular ensembles that perform various functions within their respective e organisations. The music corps of the Bundeswehr are mainly made up of professional musicians and topped up with qualified brass-playing conscripts. In addition to the symphonic brass orchestras, smaller groups are regularly formed such as big bands, combos, smaller brass bands or chamber ensembles. The range of any music corps spans from ceremonial functions, concertante performances, shows and modern entertainment music. The orchestras of the National Police Force come under the auspices of the Police Presidents in the East, Central and Southern districts. They perform at official functions and as part of the National Police Force public relations programme at formal concerts and charity events. The music corps of the other police forces are mainly part of their public relations programme and are run by the various federal states and are generally part of the organisational set up of the Interior Ministries in the federal states.