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Two founding dates

The Museumsorchester owes its formation to the commitment of Frankfurt’s citizens. As part of the opening of the Frankfurt National Theatre in 1792, it was only natural for there to be an orchestra to perform the contemporary operas of Mozart, Dittersdorf, and Salieri. For this purpose, the theatre management selected musicians from the city and the region to form a permanent music ensemble for the theatre. This was initially made possible by a private corporation, but before long the successful orchestra was supported financially by the city of Frankfurt as well.

The second founding date of the orchestra followed in 1808: To introduce the members of the ‘Museum’ society to the latest symphonic music, a large orchestra was required. As a result, the musicians of the theatre orchestra were contracted for the concerts with an orchestra – the ‘great museums’. Thus, the present name ‘Museumsorchester’ was born.

A museum in step with the times

While today the word ‘museum’ might first bring to mind an exhibition venue, in the 19th century, the approach of the ‘museum’ in Frankfurt was different – it was interactive and in step with the times: In 1808, citizens of Frankfurt founded the ‘Museum’, a society for the ‘care of the muses’, to cultivate and promote literature, fine arts and art music. The meetings of the association included literary and musical performances, as well as ‘art inspections’ of alternately presented paintings. Later, the ‘museums’ were opened to the city community. Many composers had their brand-new music performed here for the first time: Works by Johannes Brahms, for example, were premiered under his direction. Likewise, Richard Strauss’ tone poems Ein Heldenleben and Also sprach Zarathustra also had their world premieres here under the composer’s direction.

Two roles, at least…

The musical impact of the Museumsorchester regularly unfolds in two ways: in the pit as the orchestra of the Oper Frankfurt and as a symphony orchestra in the museum concerts of the Frankfurter Museumsgesellschaft.

In 2021, the association ‘Museumsorchester e.V.’ was founded. Members of the orchestra have organised themselves in order to be able to realise projects such as the ‘Mahnwachen für Musikkultur Live’, vigils for live music culture.

Principal conductors and concertmasters

The ‘hall of fame’ of musical personalities who have left their mark on the orchestra is considerable. These include Louis Spohr, Willem Mengelberg, Georg Solti and Michael Gielen. Well-known guest conductors were Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvořák, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter and many others.

The most famous member of the orchestra was certainly Paul Hindemith, who held the position of concertmaster between 1915 and 1922. He is also the namesake of the orchestra’s own academy, where young artists have been taking their first steps into professional life since 2015.


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