The Essener Philharmoniker, the symphony and opera orchestra of the city of Essen with principal conductor Tomáš Netopil, enjoys an excellent reputation internationally through regular guest appearances at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and the International Dvořák Festival. The orchestra was founded in 1899 and shortly thereafter received a new concert hall, the Saalbau, which was inaugurated by Richard Strauss in 1904. Around the turn of the millennium, the Saalbau, which was badly damaged in the Second World War and rebuilt quickly afterwards, was extensively renovated and gloriously reopened in 2004 as the Philharmonie Essen.
Among the chief conductors of the last decades were Heinz Wallberg (1975-1991) and Wolf-Dieter Hauschild (1991-1997). Stefan Soltesz (1997-2013) led the Essener Philharmoniker to receive the "Orchestra of the Year" award in 2003 and 2008. Tomáš Netopil has been General Music Director of the Essener Philharmoniker since the 2013/2014 season. The appearances of important guest conductors with the orchestra also attest to its reputation. These include Otto Klemperer, Fritz Busch, Rudolf Kempe, Hans Knappertsbusch, Bernard Haitink, Günter Wand, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki and, more recently, Philippe Herreweghe, Thomas Hengelbrock, Jun Märkl and Ivor Bolton.
In addition to regular opera services at the Aalto Theater, the Essener Philharmoniker performs more than 30 concerts per season: symphony concerts at the Philharmonie Essen as well as children's, youth and special concerts. Furthermore, the musicians organize their own chamber concert series. At the KlassikLounge in the Grillo Theater, musicians of the Essener Philharmoniker meet with musical guests for unusual live acts. In the series "Mit Götz Alsmann ins Konzert" (With Götz Alsmann in Concert), music knowledge has been conveyed by the star presenter for several seasons.
The topic of environmental protection has been an important concern for the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra for many years. In 2017, for example, the orchestra organized a program as part of the "European Green Capital" with a large open-air concert in Essen's Stadtgarten in front of more than 7,000 visitors.
The orchestra can also be seen and heard on concert tour: in the Semper Opera House at the Dresden Music Festival, at the Penderecki Festival in Zabrze and Krakow, several times at the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and most recently for the first time in the Frauenkirche in Dresden