1949 – 1960: Eugen Jochum
When Eugen Jochum died in Munich on March 26, 1987, the 84-year old already was a legend. The Bruckner-expert was considered one of the most important conductors of the postwar period. Between 1949 and 1960 he established the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
“He shall take all actions needed, to build up and educate this orchestra. Whoever is engaged as conductor, guest conductor or orchestra musician may be decided by Professor Eugen Jochum and the Director alone.” This quote from the foundation contract of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks from 1949 shows the strength of Eugen Jochum’s position as the first Chief Conductor of the orchestra.
Indeed, Jochum was able to build up this orchestra at the Bayerischer Rundfunk the way he imagined – without any financial boarders. This is why even before the orchestra was founded Jochum already told famous musicians about the project and got them interested. Members of the Koeckert- and the Freund-Quartet were the first-chair-musicians of the newly founded orchestra.
Perfection and Ambition
The official foundation date is July 1, 1949. At first the orchestra retreated to prepare for the upcoming tasks with intense rehearsals with the perfectionist Jochum. The Maestro is often described as an occasionally choleric person, who did not find friendly words for his musicians at all times. He always had the highest musical goal for the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in mind: to become a world famous orchestra. His attempts were regarded sceptically by the other orchestras in Munich. This was not a surprise because they all had enormous financial problems due to the currency reform. The Bayerische Rundfunk faced this situation of competition and appeared as a patron of the other Munich orchestras, by supporting and broadcasting their performances on the radio.
Highly Acclaimed – in and outside the country
From the beginning the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks wasn’t just supposed to work as a studio-orchestra for the radio, but was also to perform in public. While Eugen Jochum was the Chief Conductor, the Munich audience could experience extraordinary interpretations of Anton Bruckner’s Symphonies. Sacred music was also very important for Jochum as well as the concert series “musica viva”, for which he conducted regularly. During his eleven years as Chief Conductor Eugen Jochum led the orchestra on many tours in other countries and therewith strengthened the orchestras position as a world famous ensemble.
Because of Eugen Jochum and his unbelievable energy, experience and authority the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks quickly developed into a high-class orchestra which the critic Walter Panofsky once described as “one of the most beautiful and important artistic gifts of the postwar period”.
Jochums Life as a conductor
Eugen Jochum was raised in a very catholic family of music lovers in the Bavarian province Schwaben. His musical education started very early and his artistic career always went very well. Since his 30th birthday he had regularly conducted the Berlin Philharmonics and was also in discussion as the successor of Furtwängler. After his work as Chief Conductor of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk he became director of the Concertgebouw-Orchestra in Amsterdam and later, in 1969 he became director of the Bamberger Symphoniker. Until his death in 1987 he often returned to the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks as a guest conductor. Between his concerts all over the world Jochum recorded whenever he could. He left an extraordinary wide-ranging discography.