The WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, or West Germany Radio Choir of Cologne, is the house choir of the Westdeutsche Rundfunk or West German Radio network. The choir specializes in contemporary music and has a national and international reputation while still playing a strong role in the musical life of Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region.
The current WDR Rundfunkchor Köln dates to 1947, when it was founded as the Kölner Rundfunkchor and began rehearsals at St. Agnes Church, one of the few intact rehearsal spaces in Cologne. Its predecessor was the Kammerchor des Kölner Senders, or Cologne Broadcasting Chamber Choir, which was founded in 1927 but dissolved in 1940. The Kölner Rundfunkchor was at first associated with the Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (Northwest German Radio) but took its present name when the WDR was formed in 1956. The choir had already begun to specialize in contemporary music, a fortunate choice since so many progressive German works had been banned by the Nazi regime. In 1954, the group performed in the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's unfinished opera Moses und Aron. That was among the first of more than 150 premieres of new works by the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln, including such major compositions as Karlheinz Stockhausen's Momente (conducted by the composer), Iannis Xenakis' Nuits, and Krzysztof Penderecki's St. Luke Passion. The choir sings a wide variety of repertory, however, and often performs standard works in churches around Cologne. The choir consists of 43 to 48 members. Conductors of the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln have included Bernhard Zimmermann, Herbert Schernus, Helmuth Froschauer, Anton Marik, Rupert Huber, and since 2014, Stefan Parkman, the group's first non-German director.
The WDR Rundfunkchor Köln is especially noted for its large catalog of recordings, appearing on CPO, Delta Classics, Capriccio, and other internationally distributed labels. The group's 2012 recording of György Ligeti's Requiem won Germany's coveted ECHO Klassik award. In 2017, the choir was heard on a recording of the Emmerich Kálmán operetta Die Bajadere. Several times the WDR Rundfunkchor Köln has performed at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, northern Germany's leading concert hall, and the group appeared there in 2020 in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, as part of the hall's celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth.