When the Trade Fair House of the Cloth Merchants, which had been converted into a 500-seat concert hall, was opened in Leipzig on November 25, 1781, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, which resided there, not only received a prestigious venue, but also its name. In the already then extraordinarily lively musical life of the city of Leipzig, the history of the orchestra goes back far beyond this date, making the Gewandhausorchester one of the oldest orchestras of all. Of decisive importance for its development was the appointment of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy as Gewandhauskapellmeister, who carried out far-reaching reforms in the years 1835-47 and laid the foundation for the playing culture of the orchestra. Today, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, with 180 permanent musicians, performs well over 200 times a year at three venues in Leipzig. It is the concert orchestra of the Gewandhaus, the orchestra of the Leipzig Opera and the ensemble that performs cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach together with the Thomanerchor Leipzig in the Thomaskirche every week. In addition, the Gewandhaus Orchestra gives regular guest performances in all the major centers of the music world.
The illustrious list of Gewandhauskapellmeister includes numerous great conductors, among whom Arthur Nikisch (tenure from 1895 to 1922) and Kurt Masur (tenure from 1970 to 1996) have rendered outstanding service to the orchestra. The orchestra opened a new chapter in 2018 with the appointment of Andris Nelsons, principal conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as the 21st Gewandhauskapellmeister. Since then, an intensive cooperation with the Boston colleagues has developed that is unique in the international orchestral landscape. For example, a comprehensive recording of the orchestral works of Richard Strauss was recently released, featuring both orchestras. With Andris Nelsons, the Gewandhaus Orchestra will record all Bruckner symphonies in the coming years (CD, Deutsche Grammophon). On the occasion of Sofia Gubaidulina's 90th birthday in October 2021, Deutsche Grammophon released a CD with world premiere recordings of The Wrath of God as well as The Light of the End and the Third Violin Concerto „Dialog: Ich und Du“ (Vadim Repin, violin) conducted by Andris Nelsons.
Focal points of the upcoming Leipzig season will be extensive Mendelssohn Festivals in the fall to mark the 175th anniversary of the composer's death and a major festival honoring Gustav Mahler in May 2023.
As of August 2022