It is one of the oldest orchestras in the world. The former royal orchestra and today's Saxon State Orchestra has been playing without cease for more than four and a half centuries. More than 60 years, Richard Strauss was beholden to the orchestra, which is still known as "Strauss Orchestra". The repertoire of the State Orchestra, since 1985 back again in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, stretches from the baroque to the contemporary. An extensive touring activity regularly leads the musicians all around the world.
Music had an important role in spreading the spiritual message of the Reformation. Because of the many hymns he wrote, Luther was nicknamed the “Wittenberg Nightingale”, and he declared that music was “the gift and reward of God, which drives away the Devil and makes the people happy”. The Reformer found an ally in Johann Walter, who in 1520 started working as a singer with the court orchestra of Frederick the Wise, and after this closed, as a cantor in Torgau. He worked with Luther on the “German Mass” and other hymns, and published the first Protestant hymnal, the “Little Spiritual Song Book”. On order of Elector Maurice in 1548, Walter, the “first cantor of the Protestant Church” founded the Saxon Electoral Court Orchestra in Dresden, which he directed until 1554. The orchestra has played continuously since that time and is now called the Staatskapelle Dresden. It has always been one of the leading orchestras and has been directed by many famous conductors, among them Heinrich Schütz, Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner. The orchestra’s home is now the Semper Opera Dresden, one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world.