The Filarmonica della Scala is an independent organisation founded by Claudio Abbado with the musicians of the La Scala Opera House in 1982 with the aim of developing a symphonic repertoire in order to add a further dimension to La Scala’s great operatic tradition.
The Filarmonica has its own autonomous season of concerts together with the Opera House’s symphonic season based on a contractual programme with the La Scala Opera House. From the start the Orchestra has been able to establish close relations with some of the most important conductors of the international scene. Those working alongside Abbado in the first seasons included Carlo Maria Giulini, Georges Prêtre, Lorin Maazel and Wolfgang Sawallisch. Riccardo Muti took on the role of principal conductor from 1987 to 2005, marking a decisive contribution to the Orchestra’s artistic development. From 2006 onwards the Filarmonica has intensified its association with Daniel Barenboim, Daniele Gatti and Riccardo Chailly. The inaugural concert for the 2009/2010 season was conducted by Antonio Pappano. Season 2010/2011 has started with a concert conducted by Valery Gergiev, celebrating 20 years of collaboration. Other famous conductors who have all helped to shape the Orchestra’s artistic growth over the years include Leonard Bernstein, Semyon Bychkov, Myung-Whun Chung, James Conlon, Gustavo Dudamel, Peter Eötvös, John Eliot Gardiner, Daniel Harding, Philippe Jordan, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Gennadij Rozdestvenskij, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Yuri Temirkanov and Franz Welser–Möst.
In addition to the concerts it gives at La Scala itself, the Filarmonica has taken part in many tours – indeed, it has now given more than 800 concerts away from the Opera House premises. The first international tours were led by Carlo Maria Giulini. The Filarmonica played at the Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals and in all the musical capitals of Europe and Asia under Riccardo Muti’s baton. It toured the United States for the first time in 2007 with Riccardo Chailly, travelling to China with Myung-Whun Chung in 2008, the same year that the Orchestra returned to the Vienna Musikverein with Daniele Gatti. In 2009 the Orchestra played in the Berlin Philharmonie for the first time with Daniel Barenboim, following this with European tours conducted by Barenboim and Myung-Whun Chung. They then returned to Paris for a concert with Pierre Boulez and Maurizio Pollini. Commitments for 2010 include a return to Asia with Semyon Bychkov to mark the occasion of the Shanghai Expo and a trip to Berlin to be conducted by Diego Matheuz. The Filarmonica has commissioned new works from Giorgio Battistelli, Azio Corghi, Luis de Pablo, Pascal Dusapin, Peter Eötvös, Ivan Fedele, Luca Francesconi, Salvatore Sciarrino, Giovanni Sollima and Fabio Vacchi.
The Orchestra has a history of involvement in efforts to promote music for young people and allows schools to attend rehearsals for the season’s concerts free of charge. It also has a long association with Milan’s main scientific institutions and voluntary organisations, organising open rehearsals and special concerts for their benefit. In recent years it has participated in the MiTo Festival (a joint initiative of the cities of Milan and Turin), giving concerts in spacious venues and opening the experience of symphonic music to a wide public.
The Filarmonica has also made extensive recordings for the Sony, Decca and Emi labels. The high points in this production are the Beethoven symphonies with Carlo Maria Giulini, Rossini’s cantatas with Riccardo Chailly and the complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies conducted by Riccardo Muti. The concerts of the Filarmonica season are often recorded for subsequent television broadcast by Rai3 and broadcast live on the radio by Rai’s Radio3.
The activities of the Filarmonica della Scala are not subsidised by public funds. It does however receive support from the Unicredit Group, the Orchestra’s main institutional partner.