The WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne (WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln) is a German orchestra based in Cologne. The orchestra was founded in 1947 by Allied occupation authorities after World War II, as the orchestra of Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR; Northwest German Radio). The orchestra was named Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester (Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra) and from the 1990s WDR Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra is particularly known for its performances of 20th-century and contemporary music. It has commissioned and premiered works from such composers as Luciano Berio, Hans Werner Henze, Mauricio Kagel, Krzysztof Penderecki, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.
The orchestra’s current principal conductor is Jukka-Pekka Saraste, as of the 2010-2011 season.
The orchestra has recorded commercially for such labels as Avie, Hänssler,Kairos and CPO.
Note that the broadcaster also hosts a separate symphony orchestra in Cologne, WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln, which generally specializes in more popular types of music, and is not to be confused with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln.
- Christoph von Dohnányi (1964–1969)
- Zdeněk Mácal (1970–1974)
- Hiroshi Wakasugi (1977–1983)
- Gary Bertini (1983–1991)
- Hans Vonk (1991–1997)
- Semyon Bychkov (1997–2010)
- Jukka-Pekka Saraste (2010–present