The LEIPZIG GEWANDHAUS ORCHESTRA is the oldest civic concert orchestra in the world. The orchestra had its origins in the concert society called the “Grand Concert,” founded by 16 merchants in 1743. Following its move into the meetinghouse of the textile merchants (the “Gewandhaus”) in 1781, the ensemble was named the “Gewandhaus Orchestra.” In 1884, the orchestra moved into a new concert hall that had been built through the sale of endowment shares, which was later destroyed during the air raids of 1944. In 1981, a new Gewandhaus was opened on Augustusplatz.
Few other orchestras have contributed as much to the development of the symphonic musical tradition as the Gewandhaus Orchestra. For example, it performed all of Beethoven’s symphonies during the composer’s lifetime. The orchestra also presented the world’s first complete Bruckner cycle as well as the first Shostakovich cycle during the 1970s.
The orchestra boasts an exceptionally wide repertoire and an unusually large number of performances. This is due, in part, to its multiple functions as a concert orchestra, an opera orchestra at the Leipzig Opera, and a chamber orchestra, which performs cantatas with the world-famous St. Thomas’s Boys Choir at St. Thomas’s Church. With more than 200 performances in these three venues and on tour, the Gewandhaus Orchestra is the musical heart of the City of Leipzig and its most important musical ambassador.
Felix Mendelssohn, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and Bruno Walter number among the most distinguished Gewandhaus Music Directors. Herbert Blomstedt, who succeeded Kurt Masur in 1998, was the orchestra’s 18th Gewandhauskapellmeister (Music Director). Since September 2005, Riccardo Chailly has held the post of 19th Gewandhauskapellmeister.
Riccardo Chailly’s first CD/DVD with the Gewandhaus Orchestra was released in September 2005. The recording includes the inaugural concert of September 2, 2005 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and received the ECHO Klassik award in 2006. The CD including Schumann’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4 (arr. by Mahler) and the CD including Mendelssohn and Bruch’s Concertos for Violin with the soloist Janine Jansen received ECHO Klassik awards in 2007.
The double CD of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concertos, with Nelson Freire as soloist, was released during a concert tour through Europe in 2006 and received the Diapason d’Or de l’année. This recording was nominated for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in the category “Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance with Orchestra.”
The DVD with the recording of the “Grand Concert” given in June 2006 with pianist Martha Argerich was released in October 2006. In 2006, Gramophone magazine named the Gewandhaus Orchestra “Editor’s Choice” for the innovative Decca Concerts, which make live recordings of great concerts available for downloading from iTunes.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra was presented with the award for the “Best Program 2008-2009” by the Association of German Music Publishers.