Highlights from the Gewandhausorchester’s autumn tour

Gewandhausorchester in Riga

Andris Nelsons performed in the Latvian National Opera for the first time with the Gewandhausorchester.

Key Takeaways

  • The autumn tour brought Andris Nelsons to his home country for the first time as Gewandhauskapellmeister
  • Two musicians of the Gewandhausorchester met with students in London for a private “Meet the Artist” lesson
  • Tight touring schedule makes high demands for DHL’s logistics solutions

The Gewandhausorchester has returned from a successful tour through Northern Europe where Andris Nelsons performed in his home country Latvia for the first time as Gewandhauskapellmeister. Indeed, it was the first time ever he conducted one of his orchestras in Riga where his phenomenal career began.


Organising the logistics behind one of the world’s most travelled orchestras sometimes means thinking quick and making the impossible possible. On international tours, the Gewandhausorchester often performs in different countries each night. The musicians need to arrive on time in the new venue and so do 109 cases containing valuable and irreplaceable instruments. The instruments usually get transported in special vibration-safe cases in temperature-controlled trucks on the road. But what do you do when there is a delay in the touring schedule and the trucks carrying the instruments might not arrive on time before the curtains lift at the next concert hall? You find solutions!

This is what the DHL logistics experts had to do on the autumn tour through Germany, the UK, Sweden and Latvia. As the ferry with the trucks on board from Stockholm to Latvia’s capital Riga would have taken too long, DHL chartered a plane to fly the instruments to Riga, ensuring a “just in time” delivery in Andris Nelsons’ hometown for the long-awaited premiere. “Such a shipment is always a small challenge but a wonderful and unforgettable experience when you personally oversee the transport of the instruments,” said Niclas Kotula, Project Manager at DHL Trade Fairs & Events who is responsible for the logistics of the Gewandhausorchester’s tours.

The DHL trucks carrying the instruments and other equipment of the Gewandhausorchester stands in front of the "Great Amber Concert Hall" in Liepaja, Latvia.

DHL has been the official Logistics Partner of the Gewandhausorchester since 2009 and has ensured smooth tours around the world. On this autumn tour, DHL and the orchestra travelled more than 7,000 km through northern Europe. The precious instruments, from a 0.5 kg light Triangle to a 270 kg heavy Celesta, are transported in special cases equipped with the next generation of DHL SmartSensors to protect them against changes in temperature, humidity, shock, light – and even air pressure. This way, the fragile instruments arrive safe and in tune at the next concert hall ready for the musicians to enchant the audience with a unique sound experience.

Highlight of the autumn tour were two performances in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra in Riga, where Andris Nelsons' phenomenal career began as a trumpeteer. The concerts were the first time that Andris Nelsons performed in his homeland as the chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester, one of the globe’s most prestigious orchestras. He took over the reins at the Gewandhausorchester in February 2018.

The Latvian National Opera is the place where Andris Nelsons discovered his love and passion for classical music when he was only five-years-old. His family took him to see his first opera, Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. “That emotional memory, I still remember it. The lights go dark, the conductor comes out and they start to play. I have goosebumps and tears and think what is this gentleman doing? And I thought I somehow want to be involved in music the way he is,” said Andris Nelsons. Today, he is one of the most innovative and celebrated conductors on the international scene.

Here in the Latvian National Opera began Andris Nelsons phenomenal career.

But not only Andris Nelsons was excited to be back in Riga. So were the members of the Gewandhausorchester. “It’s a pleasure to accompany him back home,” said Sébastian Jacot, solo flutist with the orchestra. And his ensemble colleague Dorothee Erbiner, cello tutti, added: “I personally have the impression that the welcoming here is especially warm.” This family spirit was felt by everyone in the opera as Andris Nelsons led the orchestra through the premiere. The audience was mesmerized by the unique sound of the Gewandhausorchester and its solists. “Both Andris Nelsons and the soprano Kristine Opolais are treasures of the country,” said one of the concert visitors.

Sharing classical music with students

Another unique highlight of the autumn tour was a meeting between two musicians of the Gewandhausorchester and students in London. As part of DHL’s GoTeach educational projects, the Gewandhausorchester and DHL organise special "Meet the Artist" events – allowing young students to get access to classical music more easily. At the Southbank Centre on October 9, two members of the famous orchestra, Lydia Dobler and Axel von Huene, met with students from a school selected by the educational charity TeachFirst UK and provided them with a glimpse of what life as a professional musician is like.

Lydia Dobler had a great reply to one of the student’s questions about the difficulty of starting a new instrument. It was a reminder to the students to keep persevering, to get to the places they want to be and that hard work will always pay off. “Starting with the violin, the first years are hard because you have no points. You have to find the right tone and you have a lot of things to do at the same time. But, after 3 or 5 years it becomes second nature and you have a lot of fun,” said Lydia Dobler.

The autumn tour through Northern Europe was a special experience for the musicians of the Gewandhausorchester, too.

Axel von Huene spoke about his biggest inspiration, Jacqueline du Pré, and how listening to her music led him to choose the cello. ”In our house we had a Violin hanging on the wall, there was also a piano, a flute and a cello. My mother used to always play Jacqueline Du Pre’s interpretation of Haydn’s cello concerto in C Major in the morning and I thought to myself ‘Oh I like this!’, so I decided then that I wanted to play the cello,” said Axel von Huene. The students listened with their eyes wide open and had their smartphones ready to record a private concert by the two musicians. For some students, it was the first time they heard live classical music, a unique debut. Maybe new fans of classical music were born that day?

After eleven concerts in eight cities and four different countries the Gewandhausorchester is now back home in Leipzig. But the orchestra and DHL are already preparing the next big international tours – through Europe from January 19 until January 29 and through Asia including Japan and China in May and June 2019. Stay tuned on InMotion for more information on the upcoming tours!


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