Gewandhaus concert hall

The Gewandhaus is a large modern concert hall on Augustusplatz in Leipzig, directly opposite the opera house. It is the home of the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra, which also plays regularly at the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Church) and in the opera house itself.

The orchestra was founded in 1743, and over the centuries has had such famous Music Directors as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Niels Wilhelm Gade, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Franz Konwitschny (father of the stage director Peter Konwitschny), Kurt Masur, Herbert Blomstedt and Riccardo Chailly. The current Music Director is Andris Nelsons.

The Gewandhaus we can see today is the third building to go by that name. It was built over a nearly five-year period from 1976 to 1981, and was inaugurated on October 8, 1981. The Great Hall seats over 1900 people and contains a huge organ with the inscription Res severa verum gaudium (True pleasure is serious business) — this is a quotation from the Roman philosopher and dramatist Lucius Annaeus Seneca (who lived from about 4 BC to 65 AD), and has been the motto of the Gewandhaus since 1781. (We opera goers know Seneca as a tragic character in the opera L’incoronazione di Poppea by Claudio Monteverdi, from the year 1642.) 

Song of Life

Inside the Gewandhaus the ceilings of the main foyer are dominated by a huge colorful painting called “Song of Life” by the Leipzig artist Sighard Gille.

The painting covers a total area of 712 square meters on four diagonal slabs of ceiling, and they say it is Europe’s largest ceiling painting.

At night they light it up with spotlights, so you can see the painting from inside the lobby and through the glass façade of the building from the square outside.

So far I have been to six performances of five different operas at the Leipzig opera house, but I have not yet attended a concert at the Gewandhaus. (Hope to remedy that after the Corona pandemic runs its course.)

Mende Fountain in front of the Gewandhaus

Directly in front of the modern Gewandhaus, but in a totally different style, the Mende Fountain from the year 1886 features a granite obelisk as well as numerous sculptures of dolphins, winged horses, nereids, nymphs, tritons and whatnot. When the water is turned on, in the warmer months of the year, most of these figures squirt or spit water into the basin.

My photos in this post are from 2005. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Leipzig, Germany.
See more posts on European concert venues.

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