Founded in 1877, the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra is one of Germany's leading orchestras. Max Reger, Hans Pfitzner and Paul Hindemith were among the most celebrated conductors of the early years and highlights included the first German performance of Bruckner's 9th symphony and Richard Strauss' "Death and Transfiguration" conducted by the composer himself.
Since then famous conductors such as Bruno Walter, Carlos Kleiber, Carl Schuricht, Aram Khatchaturian, Alberto Erede, Horst Stein, Fabio Luisi, Ton Koopman and Christian Thielemann have led the DPO and some of the great soloists of past and present, including Ferrucio Busoni, Vladimir Horowitz, Philippe Entremont, Wilhelm Backhaus, Rudolf Serkin, Ruggiero Ricci, Jorge Bolet, Yehudi Menuhin, Wilhelm Kempf, Henryk Szering, Claudio Arrau, Arthur Grumiaux, Bruno Leonardo Gelber, Zoltan Kocsis, Radu Lupu, Yuri Bashmet, Grigory Sokolov, Edita Gruberova, Frank Peter Zimmermann and Sarah Chang, who were and are regular soloists of the DPO.
No less renowned have been the names amongst the orchestra's principal conductors. Post World War II, Music Directors have included Eugen Jochum, Miltiades Caridis, Lawrence Foster, Alexander Lazarew and Bruno Weil, all of whom have shaped the DPO's profile. From 2002, the year of the orchestra's 125th anniversary, to 2011, the post of Music Director was occupied by the Englishman Jonathan Darlington and together with him the orchestra began to play a leading role amongst Germany's greatest orchestras. In the autumn of 2012 until 2017, the Italian-Danish conductor Giordano Bellincampi followed Darlington. Under Bellincampi's direction, the orchestra was able to broaden its already huge repertoire to important pieces of Scandinavian works. In February 2019 Axel Kober took over the post as music director, having conducted the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra since 2017 as principal conductor.
The DPO has championed the work of contemporary composers and in recent times has given first European performances of works of Toshio Hozokawa, Tan Dun and commissioned pieces from Mauricio Kagel, Manfred Trojahn, Krzysztof Meyer, Rudolf Kelterborn and Wolfgang Rihm to name but a few.
Attracting new audiences is also one of the DPO's priorities and to that end it has created an extensive ground-breaking educational project for young people. This, together with regular unconventional open-air and "crossover" concerts, is proving immensely successful.
Besides guest appearances throughout Germany the DPO has toured extensively to countries such as England, the former Soviet Union, the former GDR, the Netherlands, Spain, Lithuania, Finland, Greece and China. It also makes regular high profile appearances at international festivals including Savonlinna, RUHR-Triennale and Athens.
Numerous radio- and CD-recordings are available reflecting the DPO's high quality music making. Recent examples include Bruckner's 8th symphony under the baton of Heinz Wallberg, the Beethoven piano concertos with Bernd Glemser and Bruno Weil and CDs with works by Béla Bartók, Mauricio Kagel, Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner conducted by Jonathan Darlington.