The Berliner Philharmoniker, founded in 1882 as a self-governing body, has long been esteemed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras. Hans von Bülow, Arthur Nikisch and Wilhelm Furtwängler were the orchestra’s first chief conductors, leaving their distinctive mark on the Berliner Philharmoniker in its early years. In 1955 Herbert von Karajan became the orchestra’s artistic director and, during the ensuing years, worked with the musicians to develop a unique tonal quality and performing style that made the Berliner Philharmoniker famous throughout the world. Claudio Abbado, chief conductor from 1989 to 2002, devised a new type of programming, with increased emphasis on contemporary works, additional chamber music series and concert performances of operas. He was followed by Sir Simon Rattle, who led the orchestra from September 2002 until the end of the 2017/2018 season. During Rattle’s tenure, the orchestra gained stylistic flexibility, enabling them to explore truly authentic interpretations of every composer, without losing their expertise in the traditional German repertoire. In 2015, Kirill Petrenko was elected as the new chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. He takes up his position at the opening of the 2019/2020 season.