Meiningen Court Orchestra
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Meiningen Court Orchestra
Meiningen Court Orchestra
Die Meininger Hofkapelle während eines Sinfoniekonzerts, dirigiert von Generalmusikdirektor Philippe Bach.jpg
Meiningen Court Orchestra playing a symphony concert under the baton of Philippe Bach, July 2013
Concert hallMeiningen Court Theatre
Principal conductorPhilippe Bach

The Meiningen Court Orchestra (German: Meininger Hofkapelle) is one of the oldest and most traditional orchestras in Europe. Since 1952 the now 68-member orchestra has been affiliated to the Meiningen Court Theatre and in addition to their opera performances regularly give symphony concerts and youth concerts. The incumbent music director (GMD) is Philippe Bach.


The Saxe-Meiningen ducal court orchestra was founded in 1690 by Duke Bernhard I. The rise of the initially small ensemble began under the direction of the Baroque composer Georg Caspar Schürmann from 1702 to 1707. From 1711 until 1731 Johann Ludwig Bach, a second cousin of Johann Sebastian Bach, served as conductor, succeeded by his relatives Gottlieb Friedrich and Johann Philipp Bach.

Meiningen theatre, rebuilt in 1908

In 1867 the Court Orchestra under principal conductor Emil Blücher together with Franz Liszt held a festival of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein (General German Music Association) promoting contemporary composers like Leopold Damrosch, Eduard Lassen, Felix Draeseke, and Robert Volkmann. At Richard Wagner's request, the orchestra performed at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.

With the succession of Hans von Bülow as court music director in October 1880, the most successful period of the chapel began, when it developed into an elite European orchestra. Bülow brought Johannes Brahms to Meiningen to cooperate with the Court Orchestra and to occasionally conduct. In a letter to the "theatre duke" George II of Saxe-Meiningen, Brahms wrote "Bülow must know that the smallest rehearsal in the smallest Meiningen hall is more important to me than any Paris or London concert, and good and comfortable I feel amidst the orchestra, I could sing aloud a long song of praise about it..." His Symphony No. 4 premiered in Meiningen on 25 October 1885 with the composer himself conducting. While Bülow was offered the conducting of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, young Richard Strauss from 1885 temporarily worked as music director in Meiningen, succeeded by Fritz Steinbach and Wilhelm Berger.

Timeline of musical directors

Meiningen Court Orchestra with Hans von Bülow conducting, 1882

World premier of works

  • Brahms - Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op.98 (October 25, 1885)
  • Strauss - Suite in Bb major (suite for wind) Op. 4 (November 18, 1884)

Notable Instrumentalists

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Music Scenes