Gewandhausorchester delivers Christmas concert to front door

A vibrant partnership: Andris Nelsons conducts the DHL orchestra

Looking on, Ralph Wondrak, chairman of the DHL Hub Leipzig management board, is satisfied with what he sees. “We originally wanted to surprise our 6,000+ colleagues here at DHL’s Leipzig hub with a Christmas market,” explains Wondrak. But since COVID put a stop to their plans, Wondrak and his team came up with this alternative program. “People really love the Gewandhausorchester here at DHL Leipzig,” says Wondrak. “The employee tickets to their concerts always go real fast.” And the feeling is mutual; the Gewandhausorchester musicians – among the world’s best – were also happy to deliver some Christmas cheer to our DHL heroes in December 2020. For one, because performance opportunities are rare in these COVID times, even for world-class instrumentalists; but also because DHL’s logistics pros and the Gewandhausorchester enjoy a close relationship that goes way back.

DHL a part of the orchestra team

As Official Logistics Partner of the Gewandhausorchester since 2009, DHL makes sure all the necessary stage equipment – from baton to standup bass – arrives intact and on time at venues all across the globe. And for the world’s largest professional orchestra, that’s no easy task. Along with all the instruments, DHL also transports the musician’s music stands, sheet music and wardrobe. In all, Gewandhausorchester equipment comprises several thousand individual pieces totaling about eight metric tons, with some of the precious musical instruments transported in special temperature-controlled containers. Even if the instruments usually travel by truck to Frankfurt without first passing through Leipzig’s sorting center, the DHL hub staff think of themselves as part of the orchestra “team”.

The logistics behind the Gewandhausorchester touring schedule is especially challenging for concerts outside the EU. That’s when the orchestra’s entire cargo needs to pass through customs – just like any normal merchandise. It’s a time-consuming process that DHL’s logistics experts make sure to include in their planning. Despite customs inspections, the instruments reach their international destinations quickly. While a normal air freight shipment from Leipzig takes about a week to arrive at a destination in the Far East, the Gewandhausorchester’s instruments can get to concert halls in Japan or China in just two days.

“When we’re on tour, the contribution of our logistics partner DHL is invaluable,” says Gewandhauskapellmeister Andris Nelsons. “In logistics, just like in an orchestra, a large number of individual ‘voices’ work together. Each individual’s contribution towards coordinating these collective voices with teamwork, dedication and precision plays a vital role in creating a successful performance.”

"In logistics, just like in an orchestra, a large number of individual ‘voices’ work together."


Andris Nelsons

"People really love the Gewandhausorchester here at DHL Leipzig."

DHL Hub Leipzig

Ralph Wondrak

Andris Nelsons conducts the DHL orchestra

The close relationship between DHL and the Gewandhaus was on display when, only a week after the Christmas concert given by the Gewandhaus’ brass ensemble at the DHL’s Leipzig hub, Nelsons paid DHL another visit. This time, the world-famous conductor came to direct a different kind of orchestra. In place of instruments, Nelsons found himself surrounded by a symphony of conveyor belts, sorting machines, loading facilities and airplanes – and he visibly enjoyed “conducting” the DHL orchestra, including a Boeing 757 cargo plane!

*Please note, some filming took place before Covid-19.

Three questions for Andris Nelsons

How important is the role of logistics when you’re on tour with the Gewandhausorchester?

Andris Nelsons:
Logistics for an orchestral tour are of crucial importance – the precision of the planning is the foundation that the musicians depend upon. If everything is running smoothly, and all is arranged and in place at the right time, the musicians can relax and put all their energy and focus into the performance and into the music. The Gewandhausorchester is a particularly large orchestra with 185 musicians, making the arrangements surrounding a tour all the more intricate – we certainly do not take the logistics for granted.

What other parallels do you see between music and logistics?

Andris Nelsons:
In one sense, the precision of DHL’s day-to-day work, where every minute detail is critical for the success of the delivery, for ensuring that the greater chain of equally important tasks is not broken, can be brought into connection with an orchestra’s work. An orchestra performs from the score of a composer, and all the notes are played in a certain order within a certain rhythmic frame – without following this order, there would be chaos. However, the essence of performing and making music depends on what lies “between” the notes, on what the music is expressing and what feelings are evoked. Therefore, musical “logistics” are not enough to create a successful performance, because music is an artform, dependent on the power and beauty of emotions and of the individual’s inner world. Nevertheless, coming back to the important work that DHL does for so many people around the world, ultimately, I would imagine that the content of a package is the most important aspect of every delivery – and so, just like the audience is not just expecting to hear only notes that are written, but have an emotional experience, the customers expecting a package not only appreciate its timely delivery, but are grateful recipients of everything important lying within.

How is the Gewandhausorchester holding up during the COVID crisis without being able to perform?

Andris Nelsons:
Performing music has everything to do with communication and sharing the joy of music – and this time, a time during which we are not able to perform before an audience and cancellations have accumulated to an unprecedented extent, continues to be extremely hard for everyone at the Gewandhaus and musicians and music institutions around the world. Especially in times that are hard, we need music to feed our souls, to discover a source of comfort, beauty and hope. Despite the opportunities to play in smaller ensembles, and come together as an orchestra for various recording projects – opportunities which we relish and which have brought us much joy – we yearn for the day when we can connect with our wonderful and loyal audiences again. This most important aspect of performing, having our listeners around us, cannot be substituted, and we miss it so very much. Teamwork and mutual support are needed more than ever, and I am so thankful to be surrounded by a great team of musicians and colleagues working at the Gewandhaus, whose hard work and motivation and hope has been inspirational. Furthermore, we are all so grateful for the strength of our supportive friendship with DHL, a partnership invaluable to us – and we look forward to a future together long after we have overcome the difficulties we all face at present. In the meanwhile, we look forward to continuing to find ways to spread joy with music, and receiving many a Christmas parcel this festive season!

More about DHL & Gewandhausorchester