The Munich Philharmonic was founded in 1893, and since then, under the direction of renowned conductors, it has vastly enriched Munich’s musical life. Even in the orchestra’s earliest years, conductors like Hans Winderstein and Felix Weingartner guaranteed the high performance level. Gustav Mahler conducted the orchestra in the world premières of his 4th and 8th Symphonies, and in November 1911, the world première of Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” took place under Bruno Walter’s direction. Ferdinand Löwe led the first Bruckner concerts and established the orchestra’s Bruckner tradition, which was then gloriously continued by Siegmund von Hausegger and Oswald von Kabasta. Eugen Jochum opened the first concert after World War II with the overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. In the autumn of 1945 the orchestra acquired the services of an outstanding conductor in the person of Hans Rosbaud , who additionally took up the cudgels for new music. His successor, from 1949 to 1965 was Fritz Rieger, during whose administration the groundwork was laid for the Philharmonic’s successful youth work.
During the Rudolf Kempe era (1967-76) the Philharmonic made its first tour to what was then the U.S.S.R. In 1979 Sergiu Celibidache conducted his first series of concerts with the Munich Philharmonic, and was then appointed General Music Director of the orchestra in June of the same year. The legendary Bruckner concerts made a major contribution to the orchestra’s international reputation. From September 1999 until July 2004 James Levine was the Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, which won the prize for the “Best Concert Program in the 2002/2003 Season” from the German Music Publishers’ Association in the spring of 2003. In January 2004, the Munich Philharmonic made Zubin Mehta the first “Conductor Laureate” in the orchestra’s history. In May of 2003, Christian Thielemann signed a contract as new General Music Director. A tour he led to Asia brought the orchestra to Japan, Korea and China in November of 2007. These totally successful performances were followed by a repeat tour to Japan for five concerts in May of 2010.
January of 2009 marked the beginning of a series of concert performances of “Der Rosenkavalier” by Richard Strauss in collaboration with the Festival Theatre in Baden-Baden. Richard Strauss’s “Elektra” followed one year later, and in January 2011 the Munich Philharmonic presented the four symphonies by Johannes Brahms. The orchestra traveled with Conductor Laureate Zubin Mehta in September of 2010 to South America, where it received the plaudits of both press and public. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Munich world première, Christian Thielemann led two performances of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in October 2010. Lorin Maazel assumed the position of Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic in 2012. In his two-year tenure Maazel expanded the orchestra's repertoire and worked on flexible sounds.
Since 2015/16 Valery Gergiev is the Music Director of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.