The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic: Better by the dozen


Katinka Welz speaks to members of the ensemble about its history and popularity

Discover more Featured Stories like this in The Strad Playing Hub.

Read more premium content for subscribers here

It was all down to a chance encounter. On a rainy morning in 1972 Rudolf Weinsheimer, cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic, was driving into town for rehearsals when he noticed a hitch-hiker at a bus stop. He offered her a lift, only to discover that she was the teenage daughter of composer Boris Blacher (1903–75). Weinsheimer, utterly delighted, ventured a question: would her father be prepared to write a piece for twelve cellos?

Blacher agreed, and over the course of the year he dedicated three pieces – Rumba philharmonica, Blues  and Espagnola  – to the cello section of the Berlin Philharmonic. Other composers followed suit, arrangements were added to the repertoire, and soon the cello section of the Berlin Philharmonic became an independent – and hugely successful – brand and enterprise: the 12 Cellists…

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe 

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.


* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.