Cairo Symphony Orchestra embarks on tour to Germany

Ati Metwaly , Sunday 5 Mar 2023

Conducted by Ahmed El-Saedi, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra is gearing for a short tour in Germany where it will perform in Leipzig and Berlin.

Cairo Symphony Orchestra


In Leipzig, the orchestra will perform at the city’s Gewandhaus, a large cultural complex, on 7 March. It will perform at the Mendelssohn hall.

This will be followed by a concert at the renowned Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic)’s Kammermusik hall (small hall) on 10 March.

This is not the first time for Egypt’s national orchestra to perform in Germany. 

“We gave two concerts in Berlin, the last one being in 2018. However, this will be our first visit to Leipzig,” noted Ahmed El-Saedi, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor and music director.

He added that the orchestra “had a tour scheduled on May 2020, but it was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.”

The programme includes El-Saedi’s composition Taquassiem for Clarinet and Strings, Nino Rota’s Concerto No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra, and Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Symphony No. 4 in A major ‘Italian’.

“The same programme was performed at the Cairo Opera House this Saturday. We are happy to take it to Germany now," said El-Saedi. 

According to the maestro, more than 40 musicians from the Cairo Symphony will embark on the tour. These include two soloists: Fabian Hügli (clarinet), who joined the orchestra two years ago as principal clarinet; and Victoria Kapralova (cello), former musician at the same orchestra.

The conductor and composer El-Saedi is among the best-known figures on Egypt’s classical music scene. His resume speaks for itself, boasting dozens of collaborations with the world-renowned orchestras, concerts in Egypt and in many international prestigious halls. El-Saedi started working with the CSO in 1991. 

In 1993, he was appointed principal conductor and music director for the first time, a position he held until 2003. Many feel these were the best years in the orchestra’s recent history.

Under El-Saedi’s baton, the CSO reached an international artistic standard. Its performances in Egypt were topped with critically acclaimed international tours. In 2003, following El-Saedi’s divorce from the CSO, the maestro continued this journey by founding first the Egyptian Philharmonic Society and then its offspring, the Egyptian Sinfonietta.

Meanwhile, El-Saedi occasionally conducted the CSO, yet had no executive power over the ensemble. He returned to the Cairo Symphony Orchestra as its principal conductor and music director in 2014, a post that he holds to date.

The Cairo Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1959 (the same year the Cairo Conservatory was founded), was one of the first serious musical projects initiated by the Egyptian state.

The orchestra had the old opera house, Khedivial Royal Opera House built in 1869, as its first home. Franz Litschauer from Austria was the orchestra’s first conductor (1959-1960), and later on two Egyptian conductors, Ahmed Ebeid and Youssef El-Sisi replaced him. 

For most of the orchestra’s history, its musicians were mostly foreigners, with Egyptians representing, depending on the season, 30-40 percent of the orchestra. It was in the 2000s that the number of Egyptian musicians increased, reaching 80 percent.

The orchestra has faced many challenges. Following the tragic burning of the old opera house in 1971, concerts were moved to Al-Gomhoria Theatre. It was not until 1988 that the orchestra found a new home at the new Cairo Opera House, situated in Zamalek.

Several principal conductors have led the orchestra, but Ahmed El-Saedi is its longest serving principal conductor. 

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