The Orchestra

Foto: Felix Broede

A brief history of the Staatskapelle Weimar

The Staatskapelle Weimar, founded in 1491, is not only the oldest orchestra in Germany, but also one of the most illustrious in the world. Its history is closely associated to some of the world’s best known musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss. Under the aegis of Duchess Anna Amalia, the Weimar court orchestra became the premier musical institution of 'Classical Weimar' after 1756 and part of the newly founded Hoftheater Weimar in 1791. During the 19th century, the orchestra continued to attract attention due the achievements of Liszt and Strauss who improved its quality and reputation. The Hofkapelle Weimar was the first to perform numerous contemporary orchestral works such as Liszt’s »Faust-Symphony«, his symphonic poems including »Les Préludes« and Strauss’s »Death and Trans­figuration« as well as operas such as Wagner’s »Lohengrin«, Humperdinck’s »Hansel and Gretel« and Saint-Saëns’ »Samson et Dalila«.

The positive progress of the orchestra, renamed the »Weimarische Staatskapelle« in 1919, came to an abrupt end when the National Socialists seized power in 1933. Following the calamitous events of World War II, the conductor Hermann Abendroth re-established the Staatskapelle Weimar to its former grandeur and quality, making it one of Germany’s leading orchestras. Since the 1980s, the conductors Peter Gülke, Oleg Caetani and Hans-Peter Frank as well as the present honorary conductor George Alexander Albrecht, who headed the orchestra from 1996 to 2002, have left a lasting mark. As General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar, Albrecht was succeeded by Jac van Steen (2002 to 2005), Carl St. Clair (2005 to 2009) and Stefan Solyom (2009 to 2016). In September 2016, the Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits took the reins of the only A-level orchestra in the state of Thuringia.

Both in its extensive concert activities and opera productions at the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar, the Staatskapelle has worked to cultivate its great tradition in combination with innovative aspects. A wide range of CD recordings reflect its impressively diverse repertoire with works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and several contemporary composers. World-class soloists and conductors perform regularly with the Staatskapelle Weimar which is nationally and internationally renowned as a first-class concert orchestra. In past years, it has guest performed in Japan, Israel, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland and Austria, at famous festivals and numerous major concert halls in Germany.