Gewandhaus Orchestra

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The New Gewandhaus on Augustusplatz in Leipzig

The Gewandhausorchester (formerly known as the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester ) is a symphony orchestra based in Leipzig . It is one of the leading international orchestras and is currently the world's largest professional orchestra with around 185 professional musicians. It is also the oldest civil concert orchestra in the German-speaking area. The chief conductors of the Gewandhaus Orchestra traditionally bear the title of "Gewandhauskapellmeister". Andris Nelsons has been the Gewandhaus Kapellmeister since February 2018 .

Activities and characteristics

The Gewandhaus Orchestra currently has three commitments and three regular venues in Leipzig: It plays as a concert orchestra in the Gewandhaus , as an opera orchestra in Leipzig Opera and since 1840 as a church music orchestras in the Leipzig city churches, especially in the Thomas Church as a companion of the St. Thomas Boys Choir . In the Gewandhaus the orchestra gives 48 symphony concerts and 20 special concerts as well as 12 chamber music evenings every year .

The Gewandhaus Orchestra is one of the most renowned orchestras in the world. It gained its reputation through the outstanding musical quality, which was shaped by well-known Kapellmeister, and through numerous guest performances and tours worldwide, especially in Japan and North America.

The Gewandhaus Orchestra is characterized by a dark, warm, romantic strings sound. Gewandhaus director Andreas Schulz describes the so-called Gewandhaus sound as a "very dark, earth-colored, yet very transparent" sound and as a "rich, full, almost somewhat bass-heavy string sound". The solo cellist Christian Giger also ascribes a “rich depth” to the Gewandhaus sound. According to concertmaster Frank-Michael Erben , this special string sound is often compared with the character of a deep red Bordeaux wine. It arises on the one hand in terms of playing technique through the bowing and a certain handling of vibrato , on the other hand through an appreciation of the deep voices ( double basses and cellos ) as a strong foundation of the orchestral sound. By adapting the higher vocal groups, their tone also becomes warmer, especially with the violas . The warm string sound is harmoniously complemented by the German trombones . Since the middle of the 19th century, this sound ideal has been promoted by the teaching activities of members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra at the "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" University of Music and Theater in Leipzig and passed on within the orchestra by the experienced musicians to new orchestra members. The Gewandhaus sound was particularly shaped and preserved under Kurt Masur .

Another special feature is the music-making in the German line-up , since this was reintroduced by Herbert Blomstedt in the Gewandhausorchester in the late 1990s.



Former Gasthof Zu den drey Schwanen am Brühl (left), where the first “Big Concerts” took place
Conductors of the Gewandhaus Concerts 1781–1881:
back (from left) JPC Schulz, JGschicht , CA Pohlenz, JA Hiller; in front Carl Reinecke, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Julius Rietz

The historical roots of the Gewandhaus Orchestra go back to the year 1479, when the City Council of Leipzig employed Kunstpfeifer (later Stadtpfeifer ) for musical accompaniment at city festivals, and later also for church services and theater performances .

In 1743, 16 Leipzig merchants financed 16 musicians, including Stadtpfeifer, to found a musical society, the Leipzig Concert , the first concert of which took place on March 11, 1743. Therefore, the Gewandhausorchester is considered to be the oldest non- court concert orchestra in the German-speaking area that has outgrown the bourgeoisie .

First venues

Initially, the concerts took place in town houses, later because of the great popularity in the Gasthof Zu den drey Schwanen at Brühl 84 (later No. 7). The name Great Concert became common, as the Leipzig concerts of the Gewandhaus Orchestra are still named today.

On the initiative of the incumbent mayor, the attic of the Leipzig Gewandhaus , the exhibition center for cloth merchants (today the municipal department store ) was converted into a representative concert hall. The first Gewandhaus concert took place in November . The orchestra, then 32 strong, now had its first permanent venue. In 1782 the hall was rebuilt again. At the front of the hall was the slogan of the younger Seneca Res severa est verum gaudium ( true joy is a serious matter ), which became the motto of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Expansion of tasks

In the orchestra also played at the theater dedicated musicians what the name Gewandhaus Orchestra and theater established. Some of the orchestra members were hired for church music in addition to town pipers. In 1840 the orchestra was recognized as a city ​​orchestra and from then on was also responsible for church music. Since then, the Gewandhausorchester has functioned as the Leipzig opera orchestra, as a concert orchestra and as a church music orchestra to accompany the St. Thomas Choir, among other things .

Leipzig's reputation as a city of music is largely based on the work of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Many important musical works were premiered by the orchestra. Outstanding national and international soloists performed in the Alter Gewandhaus, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Robert Schumann , Clara Schumann , Carl Maria von Weber , Niccolò Paganini , Franz Liszt , Hector Berlioz , Frédéric Chopin , Gewandhauskapellmeister Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy , Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms .

New theater and new concert house

In 1868 the New Theater on Augustusplatz was inaugurated after the old comedy house had become too small. This enabled operas to be performed more richly.

After the expansion of the Gewandhaus was not enough due to the large number of visitors and the growing orchestra, the New Concerthaus (also known as the New Gewandhaus ) was built between Beethoven and Mozartstrasse, to which the Gewandhausorchester moved in 1884. In the area surrounding this second Gewandhaus, a new city quarter, the so-called music quarter, was built . The New Gewandhaus, which had a chamber music hall in addition to the large hall, became world-famous for its excellent acoustics. As a result, an (enlarged) copy of the building that has survived to this day was built as a concert hall in Boston . In the Leipzig Konzerthaus conducted a. a. Johannes Brahms, Peter Tschaikowski , Edvard Grieg , Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner .

In 1916 the orchestra was invited to Switzerland and then carried out its first international tour in the middle of World War I. Two more trips to Switzerland followed, and the first European tour in 1931.

During the great air raid in 1943, the New Concerthaus was hit by bombs and burned out. The orchestra's own musical instruments, which were carefully brought to the cellar by the orchestra attendants, have been preserved. The externally intact ruin secured with an emergency roof was demolished in March 1968. The New Theater was also destroyed in the bombing raids.

New opera house and third Gewandhaus

Arrival of the orchestra at Tokyo Airport on April 12, 1961, the beginning of a four-week concert tour in Japan
Special postage stamp of the Deutsche Bundespost for the 250th anniversary

After 1945 the Gewandhausorchester first appeared in a variety theater, then in a film theater and from 1947 to 1981 in the congress hall on Pfaffendorfer Strasse.

In 1960 the New Leipzig Opera House was inaugurated on Karl-Marx-Platz . In 1977 the construction of a modern concert hall began on the opposite side of the square, which in turn was called the New Gewandhaus . The designs for this third Gewandhaus building came from Rudolf Skoda (with Eberhard Göschel, Volker Sieg and Winfried Sziegoleit ). In 1981 the new concert hall was inaugurated, in which the Gewandhaus Orchestra has been based ever since. The construction of a new venue suitable for the orchestra goes back in particular to the strong commitment of the then Gewandhaus Kapellmeister Kurt Masur , who managed the only new construction of a pure concert hall in the GDR during the GDR leadership.

During this time, the orchestra also expanded its concert tours abroad. It undertook its first tour of Japan in 1960, its first US tour in 1974, its first concert tour to South America in 1980 and its first trip to Australia in 2003.

On the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, graphic artist Hellmuth Tschörtner designed a festive signet in 1967. This curved lettering, the so-called Tschörtner signet , was used in various versions as the logo for the Gewandhausorchester and Gewandhaus in the following years. At the beginning of the 2015/2016 season on August 28, 2015, the corporate design of the Gewandhaus was redesigned, while the Tschörtner logo was modernized by the Hamburg agency Karl Anders.

In the 2012 annual report of the Saxon Court of Auditors , the growing costs were criticized. In particular, it was criticized that the remuneration of the musicians regulated by the company collective agreement is far above the usual collective agreements negotiated by the Deutscher Bühnenverein , while the planned workload was not achieved. It was also criticized that the salaries of the Gewandhaus director were "considerably" higher than that of the mayor and a Saxon state minister. It also became known that the orchestra's tours cause financial deficits.

In 2018 the Gewandhausorchester could already look back on 275 years of history. On the occasion of this anniversary, a two-volume work on the history of the orchestra was published by Verlag Klaus-Jürgen Kamprad . The new chronicle replaced the orchestra's previous chronicle, which was published on the 250th anniversary in 1993.

World premieres (selection)

19th century

20th century


Gewandhaus Kapellmeister

The chief conductors of the Gewandhaus Orchestra traditionally carry the title of Gewandhaus Kapellmeister . Riccardo Chailly held this position from 2005 to 2016 . In September 2015, Andris Nelsons was selected to succeed Chailly. On February 1, 2018, Nelsons took up his post as the 21st Gewandhaus Kapellmeister. The previous Gewandhaus Kapellmeister were:

Portrait of Arthur Nikisch.jpg
Arthur Nikisch
Wilhelm Furtwängler by Emil Orlik.jpeg
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Federal Archives Image 183-12295-0002, Franz Konwitschny.jpg
Franz Konwitschny

Kurt Masur TA 2012 cropped.jpg
Kurt Masur
Herbert Blomstedt in Gothenburg, May 2015.JPG
Herbert Blomstedt
Riccardo Chailly - 2 (1986) .jpg
Riccardo Chailly
Andris Nelsons.JPG
Andris Nelsons
  1. 1781–1785: Johann Adam Hiller
  2. 1785–1810: Johann Gottfried Shift
  3. 1810–1827: Johann Philipp Christian Schulz
  4. 1827–1835: August Pohlenz
  5. 1835–1847: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
  6. 1841/1842, 1852-1854: Ferdinand David
  7. 1843/1844: Ferdinand von Hiller
  8. 1844–1848: Niels Wilhelm Gade
  9. 1848–1860: Julius Rietz
  10. 1860–1895: Carl Reinecke
  11. 1895–1922: Arthur Nikisch
  12. 1922–1928: Wilhelm Furtwängler
  13. 1929–1933: Bruno Walter
  14. 1934–1945: Hermann Abendroth
  15. 1946–1948: Herbert Albert
  16. 1949–1962: Franz Konwitschny
  17. 1964–1968: Václav Neumann
  18. 1970–1996: Kurt Masur
  19. 1998-2005: Herbert Blomstedt
  20. 2005-2016: Riccardo Chailly
  21. since 2018: Andris Nelsons

Honorary conductors

  • Kurt Masur (1996-2015)
  • Herbert Blomstedt (since 2005)

Chamber music ensembles

Four chamber music ensembles, some of which are very traditional and made up of members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, have the addition of "Gewandhaus" in their name:

Members of the orchestra also play in numerous other chamber music groups.

The Leipzig Bach Orchestra is also recruited from musicians from the Gewandhaus Orchestra .


  • 2018 - Opus Klassik in the category Orchestra of the Year for the album Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 - Wagner: Tannhauser Overture


  • Johannes Forner: The Gewandhaus Concerts in Leipzig 1781–1981. With a comprehensive look back from the beginnings to 1781. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1983.
  • Fritz Hennenberg : The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Insel, Frankfurt / Leipzig 1992, ISBN 3-458-16258-5 .
  • Claudius Böhm : The Leipzig City and Gewandhaus Orchestra. Documents from a 250 year history. Verlag Kunst und Touristik, Leipzig 1993, ISBN 3-928802-27-5 .
  • Hans-Rainer Jung, Claudius Böhm: The Gewandhaus Orchestra. Its members and its history since 1743. Faber and Faber, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-936618-86-0 .
  • Claudius Böhm: New Chronicle of the Gewandhaus Orchestra . 1st volume: 1743-1893 . 408 pages, with 209 illustrations. Verlag Klaus-Jürgen Kamprad , Altenburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-95755-626-4 .

Web links

Commons : Gewandhausorchester Leipzig  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b On the trail of the Gewandhaus sound, article in the series Saitenwechsel , presented by the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.
  2. a b The special sound. Conversation with 1st concert master Frank-Michael Erben and 1st solo cellist Christian Giger, in: Program of the Gewandhaus Orchestra for the 2015/2016 season, pp. 38–42, here p. 39 f.
  3. The seating arrangement, article in the series Saitenwechsel, presented by the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.
  4. a b The Gewandhausorchester: From the band to the global brand
  6. ^ "Brand" - Hellmuth Tschörtner and his logo. In: Gewandhaus-Magazin, No. 17, winter 1997/98
  7. The new design. Press release of March 26, 2015, City of Leipzig, Communication Department (PDF; 309 kB), accessed on September 11, 2015.
  8. New appearance for the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Design Diary, May 20, 2015, accessed September 11, 2015.
  9. Annual report 2012 of the Saxon Court of Auditors, Volume I: State administration (PDF; 373 kB)
  10. Anniversary: ​​275 years of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, with 15 pictures. Note: In the heading and in the first sentence, Gewandhaus means the Gewandhaus orchestra. The anniversary relates to the founding of the orchestra in 1743. The Gewandhaus only became the orchestra's venue in 1781.
  11. New Chronicle of the Gewandhausorchester ( memento from December 25, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) at:
  12. ^ Under the direction of Carl Reinecke
  13. Andris Nelsons is to be the 21st Gewandhaus Kapellmeister. Press release from the City of Leipzig, September 9, 2015.
  14. ^ City of Leipzig, Council meeting on November 19, 2015: Template VI-DS-01862-NF-01. Election of Andris Nelsons as Gewandhauskapellmeister of the city of Leipzig on February 1st, 2018.
  15. Andris Nelsons on
  16. History of the Gewandhausorchester, see The Gewandhauskapellmeister with picture gallery.
  17. ensembles
  18. Gewandhaus Wind Quintet
  19. ensembles, see other ensembles .
  21. Information on Claudius Böhm: New Chronicle of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Volume 1: 1743–1893 Website of the Kamprad publishing group