1946: Philharmonisches Orchester des Südwestfunks
1946: Großes Orchester des Südwestfunks
1966: Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunks
1998: SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg
The Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra (also known in English as the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra or SWR Symphony Orchestra, and in German as the Sinfonieorchester des Südwestrundfunks or SWR Sinfonieorchester) is a radio orchestra located in the German cities of Baden-Baden and Freiburg.
The first incarnation of the orchestra occurred in 1946, initially with members of the discontinued spa orchestra of the city as the core of players. The revival of the spa orchestra two years later forced the reorganization of the radio orchestra. Subsequently, Hans Rosbaud was hired as the orchestra's first chief conductor. Rosbaud was already well known as a champion of modern music, and Heinrich Strobel, the music director in charge of the orchestra, shared this sympathy with contemporary music. Thus the orchestra had, and continues to have, as its focus performances of modern music.
The orchestra was first sponsored by Südwestfunk (SWF), a public broadcasting corporation headquartered in Baden-Baden. In 1998 SWF merged into Südwestrundfunk ("Southwest Broadcasting"), which took over responsibility for the orchestra. The current chief conductor is François-Xavier Roth, beginning with the 2011-2012 season. Michael Gielen, chief conductor from 1986 to 1999, has the title of Ehrendirigent (conductor laureate) with the orchestra. In February 2014, the orchestra announced the extension of Roth's contract through the 2015-2016 season.
In June 2012, the SWR Broadcasting Council voted to approve a measure proposed by SWR Intendant Peter Boudgoust to merge the SWR Sinfonieorchester with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, for ostensible reasons of budgetary limitations for two separate orchestras affiliated with the SWR. The SWR Broadcasting Council formally passed the measure in September 2012, with the merger of the two orchestras scheduled to occur in 2016. Protests at the decision resulted. The orchestra made its first, and only, appearance at The Proms on 26 August 2015.
One of the most widely heard recordings by this orchestra was Ligeti's Atmospheres conducted by Ernest Bour on the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack. The orchestra has also recorded commercially for the Hänssler label, including music of Messiaen, Bartók, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Wolfgang Rihm.