With a history as a broadcast orchestra stretching back to the post-World War II era, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin has also became a major concert attraction. The group has attracted an international set of chief conductors and has often added contemporary works to its repertory.
Ultimately responsible for the orchestra's founding was the government of the American military occupation in West Berlin, which established the RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) broadcaster in 1946. The radio station in turn assembled an orchestra that by 1948 was well established and had hired its first permanent conductor, the Hungarian Ferenc Fricsay. He remained in his post until 1954. The orchestra underwent a period of instability in the mid-'50s as West and East Berlin dealt with forced cultural separation. It was renamed the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1956 and became the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in 1993, after German reunification. Fricsay returned from 1959 to 1963, often programming the music of Bartók and doing much to foster that composer's international popularity. His successors included the American Lorin Maazel (1964-1975), the Italian Riccardo Chailly (1982-1989), and the Russian-Icelandic Vladimir Ashkenazy (1989-1999); with the exception of Ingo Metzmacher (2007-2010), none of the orchestra's principal conductors has been German. The orchestra's leaders in the modern era have also included the American contemporary music specialist Kent Nagano (2000-2006), the Russian Tugan Sokhiev (2012-2016), and as of 2017, the Briton Robin Ticciati.
The orchestra still broadcasts on the radio but offers a full concert season, mostly at the Philharmonie in Berlin. Its recording catalog is large and includes a 2011 recording of music by Kaija Saariaho, conducted by Nagano, that won a Grammy award. Ticciati led the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in a performance of Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A major released on Scotland's Linn label in 2019; the orchestra has also recorded for CPO, Sony Classical, Capriccio, and other labels.