Short history of the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig.
It has been known for visitors to Leipzig to stand in front of the concert hall on Augustusplatz in some confusion, asking themselves: “That’s meant to be the centuries old Leipzig Gewandhaus?” How can Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Arthur Nikisch and Wilhelm Furtwängler have conducted in this “house with a hat”, as the formerGewandhauskapellmeister, Václav Neumann, scoffed?
They did not, of course. Two other Gewandhäuser in Leipzig bore witness to the concerts directed by this illustrious trio: Mendelssohn in the Gewandhaus in Universitätsstraße, Nikisch and Furtwängler in the “New Gewandhaus” in Beethovenstraße. The hall on Augustusplatz is, therefore, the third Leipzig Gewandhaus and the second not to have anything to do with the original purpose from which the halls took their name – Gewand being the somewhat antiquated word for garment; a Gewandhaus was the building catering for a city’s textile trade.
The first Gewandhaus – a three-winged building located between Gewandgäßchen and Kupfergasse – was both the trading hall and the guildhall of Leipzig’s cloth merchants. The name does, however, tell only half the story. The ground floor of the wing bordered by the Universitätsstraße was the civic arsenal (Zeughaus)until 1828, containing the city’s armaments and ammunition.
The steeply sloping vineyard-style terraced seating allows an optimum view of the stage from each one of the 1,900 seats. Following the Gewandhaus’s inauguration in 1981, the hall’s magnificent acoustic was soon universally acknowledged as having set a new benchmark in this tremendously complex field and compares exceedingly favourably to that of the many concert halls built throughout the world since. The acoustic qualities of the Great Hall are commensurate with the exceptionally high demands the Gewandhaus Orchestra sets itself, as well as those of the world’s elite conductors, who, without exception, praise the hall as being one of the finest in the world. The Great Hall of the Gewandhaus is the perfect environment for almost every imaginable form of concert and event.