Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (LGO)

See also: Henri Wilhelm Petri (1856-1914).

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; sometimes simply referred to as Gewandhausorchester) is a German symphony orchestra based in Leipzig, Germany. The orchestra is named after the concert hall in which it is based, the Gewandhaus (Cloth Hall or Textile Hall).

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 the bourgeoisie, while older orchestras were part of royal suites.

In 1835, Felix Mendelssohn became the orchestra’s music director, with the traditional title of Gewandhauskapellmeister, and held the position with only one year’s interruption until his death in 1847. 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 concert duties, the orchestra 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. Masur and Blomstedt each currently hold the title of conductor laureate with the orchestra.

In 2005, Riccardo Chailly (1953) took over as both Gewandhauskapellmeister and music director of the Leipzig Opera, with an initial contract through 2010. In 2008, Chailly’s first contract extension occurred, through 2015. However, he concurrently resigned as GMD of the Oper Leipzig, reportedly after conflict over the hiring of personnel without his consultation. In June 2013, the Gewandhausorchester further extended Chailly’s contract through 2020. However, in September 2015, the orchestra announced the newly scheduled conclusion of Chailly’s tenure as Gewandhauskapellmeister in June 2016, four years ahead of the previously agreed upon contract extension, at Chailly’s request. Chailly and the orchestra have released recordings on the Decca label of Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, the Robert Schumann symphonies in the re-orchestrations by Gustav Mahler, and the Beethoven symphonies.


  1. 1781-1785 Adam Hiller
  2. 1785-1810 Johann Gottfried Schicht
  3. 1810-1827 Johann Philipp Christian Schulz
  4. 1827-1835 Christian August Pohlenz
  5. 1835-1843 Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)
  6. 1843-1844 Ferdinand Hiller
  7. 1845-1847 Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)
  8. 1848-1854 Julius Rietz
  9. 1860-1895 Carl Reinecke (1824-1910)
  10. 1895-1922 Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922)
  11. 1922-1928 Wilhelm Furtwängler
  12. 1929-1933 Bruno Walter (1876-1962)
  13. 1934-1945 Hermann Abendroth
  14. 1946-1949 Herbert Albert
  15. 1949-1962 Franz Konwitschny
  16. 1964-1968 Václav Neumann
  17. 1970-1996 Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
  18. 1998-2005 Herbert Blomstedt
  19. 2005-present Riccardo Chailly (1953)

Conductors Laureate

  1. 1996-present Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
  2. 2005-present Herbert Blomstedt

Also: Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. See Gewandhaus.

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