Leipzig, Bach and Potsdam…

Bach was considered to have 3 main periods which comprised his musical life:  Weimar, Kothen and Leipzig.  Weimar and Kothen posts lasted 7-10 years.  We were not able to visit Kothen, a small village between Weimar and Liepzig, but Bach was very productive during those years.  The Duke was a Calvinist, and didn’t require much of Bach compositionally.  So Bach completed much of his secular music there including the Brandenburg Concertos, the violin partitas, his 4 orchestral suites, and I believe the cello suites.  His final post was for the Lutheran Church in Leipzig and he stayed at this post for the final 27 years of his life.  Most significantly, he composed over 100 cantatas at St Thomas’s Church.

Bach had not applied for the position but decided to do so when Telemann turned down the gig.  Bach’s wife had recently died, and he met a young soprano in Kothen.  They married and went on to have 13 children (he had 4 from his first marriage) and move to Leipzig.  Bach was church composer, organist, kappelmeister and head teacher at the boys choir school.  In addition, he taught organ lessons at St Thomas Church.  He was also responsible for music at the other main church in Leipzig.  Fortunately, he had a good budget and many professional musicians at his disposal.  It must have been a dream job for him.

The church is typical white bland interior with two magnificent organs.  When we visited, the current organist was teaching lessons, just as Bach had done almost 300 years ago.



Bach is entombed at the church.  You can see his grave above and below:


We can only see it from this side, hence the upside down thing.  The current organ:


Unlike in Weimar, Bach IS a rock star in Leipzig.  The town celebrates his likeness in many ways including a statue and the Bach Museum.


The Bach Museum is an absolute gem.  It his housed across the street from the church, in the Bose family home (He was in the gold and silver business, not stereos!).  The Bose and Bach clan were the closest of friends, so the historians were able to find out quite a bit about Bach’s family life.  But perhaps most importantly from the museum is the collection of original manuscripts.  Because of light sensitivity, pics are not always allowed.  But we were able to take a picture of Bach’s organ which was on display at the museum.IMG_1754.jpg

Like Weimar, Leipzig was behind the Iron Curtain.  So it is a mix of old (charming), Soviet era structures (ugly), and very new (modern architecture).  If one strips away the new and the Soviet structures, you can still get a pretty good idea of what the city looked like back in Bach’s day.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Berlin Phil concert on October 26 is dictating our travel schedule.  We now have 3 days to kill before arriving in Berlin.  So, we chose Potsdam.  It is surrounded by the river Havel, which breaks off into large swaths of lake sized areas.  It really is a cool place to be, and our apartment was just one block from the “lake”.  We hung out in downtown, checked out portions of the Berlin Wall (it was 85 miles or so long) and went to Cecilianhof Palace.  This palace is significant because the treaty(s) to end WWII was signed by Truman, Stalin and Churchill in 1945.  The Potsdam Conference lasted about 2 weeks and we wanted to visit where the signing took place.  We took no pics as the entire front of the palace is being restored and was shrouded in scaffolding and the like.  But it was cool to be in the place where the treaty was signed.

We now leave for Berlin and will be there Oct 23-27.  From there, we head back to France and wine taste in the Champagne region.  I will blog soon about our time in Berlin.  Auf Wedersehen!


Author: euro916

I am a college professor in the music department of Utah State University. I will start my sabbatical on May 1, 2016 and plan to document the year's experiences in this blog. The sabbatical consists of musical endeavors in Europe/UK for 3 months, and half a semester as guest artist in a couple of California universities. Thanks for following!

2 thoughts on “Leipzig, Bach and Potsdam…”

  1. I;ve been told by musicians who’s opinions I admire, Todd among them, that Bach was an exceptional event in the development of music. Having said that, I don’t particularly like Bach’s music which is likely a comment on me and me alone. Still, only the deluded ignores the opinions of those who understand. The pictures and commentary are truly exceptional.

    a church, an altar
    beautiful stained glass windows–
    Bach’s celebrated


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