The city of Leipzig has an exceptionally rich musical history. It is the native city of Wagner and many composers such as Telemann, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mahler have contributed greatly to its renown; not forgetting Goethe, in a related field, who wrote Faust here. With the strength of its unique musical tradition (it is here that Mendelssohn founded Germany’s first conservatoire), Leipzig is today, with the Opera and the Gewandhausorchester, an essential centre for international musical life.
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Leipzig, the musical city, is a perfect city for you! Attending to an opera in Leipzig and to a Gewandhausorchester concert is an obligation for any music lover.
A little history
Leipzig was born when the Slavs settled by the junction of the Ester and the Parthe between the seventh and ninth century.
Known as "Lipsk" (lime tree place), the city is first mentioned in 1015 in bishop Thietmar von Merseburg's writings as "urbs Libzi". In 1165, Otto the Rich grants Leipzig the right to organise two fairs per year on Easter and Saint Michael's day.
The city developed greatly and in 1212, the convent of St. Thomas settled into Leipzig. In 1409 the first university opened its doors. It is among the oldest ones in Germany.
In 1497, Emperor Maximilian granted higher privileges to the yearly fairs. They became imperial fairs, which prohibited other cities in a 115km radius organising any fairs. Thanks to this privilege, Leipzig's fairs strongly developed.
Leipzig was at the centre of the protestant movement: the discussions between Martin Luther and Dr Johann Eck leading to 1539's Reform were held in the city.
It is also thanks to genius composers that Leipzig gained notoriety. Bach was the musical director in Leipzig from 1723 to 1750, Wagner was born there in 1813, Mendelssohn was Gewandhaus' Kapellmeister from 1835 to 1839 and founed the conservatoire with Robert Schumann.
In 1813, Leipzig was the centre of the Battle of Leipzig which is among the greatest Napoleonian battles, ending with the French emperor's defeat.
Leipzig was a pioneer when railways were created, as in 1839 a railway linking Leipzig to Dresden was built. It was at the time the longest railway in Germany. The Bayerische Bahnhof (the train station) built during the same period is the oldest in Europe.
During WWII, the city was heavily damaged by the bombings. 60% of the town centre was destroyed and there were over 6 000 casualties.
Nowadays, Leipzig is renowned thanks to its numerous interests: universities, fairs, but specially music…
What to do in Leipzig?
Leipzig is a beautiful city to discover before your musical evening at the Gewandhaus theatre!
One of the churches is very special: the St. Thomas' Church. Bach composed the most of his work for organ there. Since WWII, the remains of the composer are burried underneath the centre of the church.
Visit the Altes Rathaus, the new City Hall, on the market square. This German renaissance styled building was built in 1557 in only 9 months by Hieronymus Lotter. The asymmetry of the architecture makes it an avant-gardist building for the time. Lotter also built the Old Scale (Alte Waage, 1555) on the market place, where all products with customs were declared during Leipzig's fairs.
The Neues Rathaus, the new city hall, is located on the old Pleissenburg fortress' place. Its 114m-high tower is the tallest city hall tower in Germany. This building is worth the detour.
Visit the Albertina university library! It dates from 1891 and was destroyed during the bombings, but was rebuilt in the 90's.
Finally, go see the Goerdelerdenkma, a monument built to pay tribute to Goerdeler, Leipzig's 1945 mayor, who was executed by the Reich.
Leipzig's gentle melody
Leipzig has everything a music lover may dream of!
The city's musical history is incredibly rich. It is Wagner's birth town and numerous composers such as Telemann, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann or Mahler contributed a lot to the city's reputation. Goethe wrote Faust in Leipzig. The city's musical tradition is unique. Thanks to the Opera and the Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig is a major international classical music centre.
The first performance housed by the Oper Leipzig was held in 1693. It was Germany's second opera at the time. From 1702, Telemann, organist and music director at the Church, offers his orchestra, the Collegium musicum. Just like Vienna's Staatsoper, Leipzig's Opera has one of the best formations in the world! Ulf Schirmer is it Art Director. Before him, Riccardo Chailly, Hoffmann and Lortzing were some of the best directors.
The Gewandhausorchester is among the best orchestras in the world. Founded in 1743, the name comes from the venue once located on the textile market place (Gewandhaus). In the nineteenth century, Mendelssohn brings it to the European level and Arthur Nikisch pushes the orchestra to an international level. Some of its conductors have been Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Hermann Abendroth and Kurt Masur, who inaugurated the new Gewandhaus in 1981. Every year, the orchestra performs all around the world. It also has various musical ensembles made up of its soloists.