An image of the original Gewandhaus concert hall
KDFC’s Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.
Today’s question is from Ken in New Haven, CT, who writes, “Could you please explain the name of the Gewandhaus Orchestra?”
I’d be glad to and I’ll do it with the accompaniment of this famous orchestra from Leipzig.
They’re playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Mendelssohn was the conductor of the orchestra from 1835 to 1847 and he wrote the concerto for his concertmaster, Ferdinand David.
But the question was about the name of the orchestra. Gewandhaus means “garment house” or “garment hall.” The original Gewandhaus was built in Leipzig in 1501 as a center for the textile trade.
When a new Gewandhaus was built in 1781, there was quite a bit of unused space. The mayor of Leipzig suggested that it be turned into a concert hall, understandable in light of Leipzig’s long musical tradition. And the orchestra that performed there soon became known as the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
By the time Mozart came there to give a concert in 1789, the Gewandhaus had become the musical center of the city.
Since then the orchestra has had two newer homes, one that opened in 1884 and was destroyed during the Second World War, and the current one, opened in 1981.