A look back: the history of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich

Postcard showing the Tonhalle as it was in 1895
Postcard showing the Tonhalle as it was in 1895
Postcard showing the Tonhalle as it was in 1895
Postcard showing the Tonhalle as it was in 1895

In mid-19th century Zurich, calls for a permanent professional orchestra became increasingly insistent. After a few initial difficulties, the first orchestral association was established in 1862. After the Swiss Music Festival held in Zurich in 1867, interested parties succeeded in harnessing audiences’ enthusiasm to found a stock company in 1868 with the aim of promoting musical life with a permanent orchestra: the Tonhalle Society Zurich, which continues to support the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich to this day and is organised as an association.

Under its first conductor, Friedrich Hegar, the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich finally became a professional orchestra. Hegar directed the Orchestra for almost four decades. His successor Volkmar Andreae also remained faithful to the Orchestra for more than 40 years.

In 1944, the 48 musicians of the Beromünster Radio Orchestra joined the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, which at the time was both a concert orchestra and a theatre/opera orchestra. In the early 1980s, there were 167 permanently employed musicians in the two ensembles. However, this was soon to change: in 1985, the Orchestra was separated and the Opera House Orchestra, today known as the Philharmonia Zurich, became an independent entity.

Conductors, directors and musical personalities as well as social and economic conditions have shaped the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and made it into what it is today: an orchestra that plays with passion at the highest level.

Chief Conductors

1868–1906 Friedrich Hegar
1906–1949 Volkmar Andreae
1949–1957 Erich Schmid
1957–1962 Hans Rosbaud
1965–1972 Rudolf Kempe, Charles Dutoit 2nd Conductor (1967–1971)
1975–1980 Gerd Albrecht
1982–1986 Christoph Eschenbach
1987–1991 Hiroshi Wakasugi
1991–1995 Claus Peter Flor (Permanent Guest Conductor)
1995–2014 David Zinman
2014–2018 Lionel Bringuier
ab 2019 /20 Paavo Järvi

Great Guest Conductors

Karl Böhm, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Otto Klemperer, Jeroným Rafael Kubelík, Carl Schuricht, Bruno Walter, Sir George Solti, Andris Nelsons, Bernard Haitink, Kurt Masur, Franz Welser-Möst and others.

Our home

… is in fact the Tonhalle Zurich. In order to be able to perform in halls that are among the best in the world in the future, it will be completely renovated, together with the neighbouring Kongresshaus, between 2017 and 2020.
The two halls will regain their original colourful décor, and there will be considerably more room for the musicians backstage. Thank to this long overdue renovation, our audience will be able to continue to enjoy attractive concerts in splendid concert halls in the future.

Tonhalle Maag – Interim concert venue, 2017 to 2020

Until we can return to the shores of the Lake in the summer of 2020, we shall be working and playing at our interim concert venue, the Tonhalle Maag in Zurich’s industrial district. The wonderful spruce-wood hall, which has been built into an industrial warehouse and offers excellent acoustics, is worth a visit in its own right!

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