Ferenc Fricsay (* 1914, † 1963) worked with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra (known from 1956 on as the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin) for thirteen years, for eight of which he was its chief conductor. This long and intensive collaboration was a decisive influence both on the orchestra, which had been founded on 15 November 1946 by RIAS, the American sector’s broadcasting station in Berlin, and on its conductor, who first appeared before the public with the young ensemble on 12 December 1948. Fricsay was the first chief conductor of the RSO, and the post with the RIAS orchestra was his first international engagement with a concert orchestra. This contributed to a close understanding between them on both the artistic and the human level.
On 24 January 1957 Fricsay stressed the importance which the RSO Berlin had for him in his brief speech introducing the concert marking the orchestra’s tenth birthday: “I am so closely involved with this orchestra, and we have so much to thank each other for, though the debt of gratitude is mainly on my side. We have made our way together, and I am proud to have been the orchestra’s chief conductor.” He was speaking of the past, because officially he had given up the post. The underlying reason was the financial straits in which the orchestra found itself from 1953 on, culminating in the need to decide of whether or not to carry on at all. Its American guarantors, on whom the RIAS chiefly relied for financial support, had terminated all its musical contracts in 1953, saying that since the American government gave such meagre subsidies to its own professional orchestras, it could not justify financing a foreign one. The musicians organised themselves into a corporation, and by means of income from studio recordings, broadcasts and concerts, and above all by accepting drastic cuts in pay, were able to keep their orchestra afloat. In this situation Fricsay accepted invitations from the Houston Symphony Orchestra for 1954/55 and the Bavarian State Opera for 1956/57, but continued to conduct up to five concerts in Berlin each season.