The WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne was formed in 1947 as part of the then North West German Radio (NWDR) and belongs nowadays to the West German Radio. It is not merely the studio orchestra of the WDR for radio and television productions but also presents numerous concerts in the Kölner Philharmonie and throughout the transmission area. Its outstanding reputation has been acquired in cooperation with its principal conductors – Christoph von Dohnányi, Zdenek Macal, Hiroshi Wakasugi, Gary Bertini and Hans Vonk. Celebrated guest conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Karl Böhm, Fritz Busch, Herbert von Karajan, Erich Kleiber, Otto Klemperer, Lorin Maazel, André Previn, Zubin Mehta, Sir Georg Solti and Günter Wand have also stood on the orchestra’s rostrum.
Impressive examples of the extraordinary quality of the WDR Symphony Orchestra and its stylistic versatility are the successful concert tours throughout Europe, Russia and Japan, its regular radio and television broadcasts and the numerous recordings which set high musical standards.
Apart from promoting the classical and romantic repertoire, the WDR Symphony Orchestra is known for its interpretation of works of the 20th century. Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Igor Stravinsky, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann are among the contemporary composers who have performed their works – mainly compositions commissioned by the radio station – with the WDR Symphony Orchestra.
Semyon Bychkov was appointed Principal Conductor of the orchestra in 1997. Under his leadership the orchestra toured very successfully in Japan, Europe, South America and the USA.