The world's oldest orchestras – a definitive chart

The world's oldest orchestras – a definitive chart


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2012

Acting on information received in response to a speculative punt last night, I am in a position to compile a list of the world’s oldest orchestras that are still in full functioning existence. Each has claimed, at some point or other, to be the oldest. Feel free to add or challenge.

1 Copenhagen: Royal Danish orchestra…. 1448

2 Weimar Hofkapelle …. 1491

3 Kassel Hofkapelle …. 1502

4 Stockholm: Kungliga Hovkapellet … 1525

5 Dresden (or Saschsiche) Hofkapelle … 1548

6 Karlsruhe – Badische Staatskapelle … 1662

7 Mannheim …. 1702 (?)

8 Leipzig Gewandhausorchester …. 1743

What, nothing in Austria or Italy?


  • Stufrom says:

    Surely Mannheim should be in there somewhere?

  • Lee McLernon says:

    Pretty sure the Gewandhaus Orchestra’s claim is that it is the oldest “civic orchestra”.

  • Doug says:

    May I ask, who was the principal oboist in the Royal Danish orchestra in 1448? Did he have to ride a horse all the way to southern France for his reeds? My guess is that von Karajan was the conductor around from 1451 to 1877 or so.

    • Andreas Broch says:

      The Royal danish orchestra didn’t start as a symphony orchestra but as a section of Trumpets and percussion. So when King Christian the first was crowned the Royal Danish Orchestra played. But it has since changed ofcourse to being a full symphony orchestra.

  • Stephanos says:

    The Meininger Hofkapelle is celebrating its 325th anniversary this year, which would make its founding in 1690.

  • Tom says:

    Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha. Founded 1651

  • Schranz Fubert says:

    Staatsorchester Stuttgart is soon celebrating its 425th anniversary, it was founded in 1593.

  • Oliver Weder says:

    Thueringen Symphony Orchestra (former Hofkapelle Rudolstadt) founded in 1635

  • Philippe Cuper says:

    Paris opera 1669

  • Rafael Grosch says:

    Mecklenburgische Staatskapelle Schwerin founded in 1563

  • Lalala says:

    Staatsorchester Braunschweig 1587

  • Duods says:

    Staatskapelle Berlin 1570

  • Jessica Xia says:

    opera de paris orchestra founded in 1672