The highly regional-sounding name of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern may conceal the group's international significance. The orchestra is one of the exceptionally fine ensembles that have developed in association with German state radio broadcasters. The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern assumed its present form in 2007 when the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken and the Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern merged; the move was due not to artistic or directly to financial considerations but to the merger of the two radio networks of which the two orchestras had been part.
The ancestry of the modern orchestra goes back to 1937, when the Great Orchestra of the Reichsender Saarbrücken was formed, with Albert Jung as conductor. The Kaiserslautern Radio Orchestra took shape in 1946 while Western Germany was under French administration. That group was known for its performances of light music. The Saarbrücken orchestra was led by Rudolf Michl from 1946 to 1971. Another feeder source for the modern ensemble was the Chamber Orchestra of the Saar under its conductor Karl Ristenpart, a staple of budget recordings in the 1960s on the Nonesuch label and a pioneer in the large-scale recording of Baroque and early Classical-period music. When that orchestra disbanded in 1973, it was absorbed into the Saarbrücken Radio Orchestra. Among that group's conductors were Myung-Whun Chung (1984-1990) and Gunther Herbig (2001-2006), both of whom have enjoyed substantial international careers.
The modern Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern has continued to face budgetary threats but maintains a busy concert schedule in the Congresshalle in Saarbrücken, the Fruchthalle in Kaiserslautern, and the broadcast auditoriums of its two constituent radio networks, the Saar Radio and the Südwestfunk in Kaiserslautern. A new Saarphilharmonie concert hall in a disused electronics factory in Saarbrücken has been proposed by conductor Christoph Poppen, the merged orchestra's conductor from 2007 to 2011. Karel Mark Chichon served as conductor from 2011 to 2017, and in that year Pietari Inkinen took up the baton. Since its formation, the orchestra has kept up a busy recording schedule, making albums with top visiting soloists and conductors, and recording for boutique German labels including Oehms, Haenssler Classic, Wergo, and CPO. The group has also issued recordings on its own SWR Music label. The orchestra's Revolutionary Rhythms album, with Chichon conducting 20th-century works of strong rhythmic character, appeared in 2018.