The Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; sometimes simply referred to as Gewandhausorchester) is the oldest symphony orchestra in the world. It is named after the concert hall in which it is based, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany.

History of the orchestra:
The orchestra’s origins can be traced to 1743, when a society called the Grosses Concert began performing in private homes. In 1744 the Grosses Concert moved its concerts to the “Three Swans” Tavern. Their concerts continued at this venue for 36 years, until 1781. In 1780, because of complaints about concert conditions and audience behavior in the tavern, the mayor and city council of Leipzig offered to renovate one story of the Gewandhaus (the building used by textile merchants) for the orchestra’s use. The motto Res severa est verum gaudium (“a serious concern is true pleasure”, or “true pleasure is a serious business” - from the Roman author Seneca) was painted in the hall, suggesting the priorities of the sponsors. The orchestra gave its first concert in the Gewandhaus in 1781. The orchestra thus has a good claim to being the oldest continuing orchestra in Germany founded by bourgeoisie, while older orchestras were part of royal suites.

In 1835 the great composer Felix Mendelssohn became the orchestra’s music director, with the traditional title of Gewandhauskapellmeister; he held the position until his death in 1847 with only one year’s interruption. In 1885, the orchestra moved into a new hall. This was destroyed by bombing in 1944. The present Gewandhaus is the third building with the name. It was opened in 1981. The large organ in the hall bears the original Gewandhaus hall’s motto “Res severa verum gaudium”.

Aside from its duties as a concert orchestra the ensemble also performs frequently in the Thomaskirche and as the official opera orchestra of the Leipzig Opera.

Later principal conductors included Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, and Václav Neumann. From 1970 to 1996, Kurt Masur was Gewandhauskapellmeister, and he and the orchestra made a number of recordings for the Philips label. From 1998 to 2005, Herbert Blomstedt held the same position, and they in turn made several recordings for the Decca label.

In 2005, Riccardo Chailly took over as both Gewandhauskapellmeister and music director of the Leipzig Opera. They have released recordings on the Decca label of Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, and the Robert Schumann symphonies in the re-orchestrations by Gustav Mahler.

Music director (Gewandhauskapellmeister):
1781-1785 Johann Adam Hiller
1785-1810 Johann Gottfried Schicht
1810-1827 Johann Philipp Christoph Schulz
1827-1835 Christian August Pohlenz
1835-1843 Felix Mendelssohn
1843-1844 Ferdinand Hiller
1845-1847 Felix Mendelssohn
1848-1854 Julius Rietz
1860-1895 Carl Reinecke
1895-1922 Arthur Nikisch
1922-1928 Wilhelm Furtwängler
1929-1933 Bruno Walter
1934-1945 Hermann Abendroth
1946-1949 Herbert Albert
1949-1962 Franz Konwitschny
1964-1968 Václav Neumann
1970-1996 Kurt Masur
1998-2005 Herbert Blomstedt
2005-present Riccardo Chailly

Conductors laureate:
1996-present Kurt Masur
2005-present Herbert Blomstedt

Edited by hjbardenhagen on 10 Oct 2010, 12:35

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