Wednesday, 14 May 2014

16 days to go.

Well in just 2 weeks we are flying to Frankfurt and then by train to Salzburg via Munich. On the return leg we will visit Dresden, we were in the capital of Saxony some 14 years ago.

Looking forward to the Music Festival in Salzburg an intensive 5 days of music.

The theme of this year's Festival Ball is Cenerentola (Cendrillon). Hoping for good weather.

On our return we will visit Dresden which is completing a re-construction program started in the 1990's. Dresden was the Royal Capital of the Kingdom of Saxony until 1918. The city was destroyed in one night of aerial fire bombing by the British on 14 February 1945.

This evening I was listening to RTBF (Belgian radio 3) from Brussels and they had a fascinating program on J.S. Bach which reminded that we had visited that other city in Saxony, Liepzig some 15 years ago. Liepzig is a university town since the Renaissance and many famous German musicians and philosophers are associated with the city, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Gottfried Liebniz, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara Schumann, Richard Wagner, J.S. Bach to name a few. There is also the famous Gewandhaus Orchstra and the Choir of St-Thomas Church. Today it is known as the most hip city in Germany.

Liepzig had been in Imperial times the seat of the great Court House of the German Empire, this role was lost after 1945 when Germany was divided in two and Liepzig fell into the Soviet sphere. In 2000 once again Liepzig became the seat of the High Federal Court of the German Republic.

The highlight of our visit was the St-Thomas Church where J.S.Bach worked most of his life, composing every week for the Sunday service a piece of music to accompany the liturgy.

He is buried in the Church in front of the main Altar and the organ he played is still in working order. We heard it that day as the Church organist was practising.

The tomb of J.S.Bach in the choir of St-Thomas Church

Bach composed weekly not only for St-Thomas but for other churches in the City like St-Nicholas.
He also composed music commissioned for a special day, a wedding, a feast, or some other important function. All this to say he was a busy man and despite all the work during his lifetime he was seen as a master composer but nothing else. His fame will come much later after his death.

Not all of his works survived, but we do have a large body of his work for our appreciation. In total to this day we know of 1128 musical works of all kinds. The latest to be discovered in 2008 was Cantata Bwv 1128- Wo Gott der Herr inch bei uns hält.

Also in Liepzig the famous tavern Auerbach's Keller where Dr. Faust met the Devil at the entrance a bronze statue of the characters stands. 

This is the site of the story written by Goethe and the first place Mephistopheles and Faust will visit in their travels. The Auerbach's Keller has been a restaurant and beer hall since 1438 making it one of the oldest restaurant in Liepzig. It was popular with students and maybe this is where Goethe got his inspiration the devil's work is often the result of excessive drink, something students often experience.

The original owner was Dr. Heinrich Stromer, Rector of the University of Liepzig and personal physician of the Prince-Elector of Saxony received the permission from his patron to establish this drinking hall. His students called him Dr. Auerbach after his birthplace Auerbach in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany. 

Liepzig is also famous for the battle of the Nations which took place in 1813 around Liepzig when all the Princes of Europe gathered their armies half a million men in all, in a Confederation against Napoleon who was seen as a scourge. 

A gigantic monument mausoleum stands outside the city in the middle of what was the battlefield in memory of the 100,000 dead from the battle which created the condition for the first downfall of Napoleon and his exile to the Isle of Elba. This monument was built through public subscription between 1898 and 1913. The architect was Bruno Schmitz and Clemens Thieme oversaw the project the gigantic sculptures outside and inside of soldiers in mourning was the work of Christian Behrens and Franz Metzner.  It is said that the acoustics of the Crypt are excellent and annual concerts are held inside. 

Finally Liepzig is the city of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and choirs whose reputation is well known, located on Augustusplatz.

The earliest roots of the orchestra can be traced back to 1479. Through the ages the Gewandhaus orchestra highlighted great musicians and their compositions but also was the gathering place where 
local music could be performed.  Many great musicians and composers came to Liepzig, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Wagner  and Brahms often premiering new pieces they had composed.  Other great conductors took the baton of the Gewandhaus Orchestra like Furthwangler, Bruno Walter, others conducted their own works, Richard Strauss, Anton Bruckner, Edvard Grieg.

During the Second World War the Gewandhaus was totally destroyed and we will have to wait until 1981 to see Kurt Masur mastermind a project to have a New Gewandhaus built. Today the program continues to be symphonic, operatic and sacred repertoire, since 2005 the Musical Director is Riccardo Chailly.

Liepzig might not be on the usual map itinerary of a tour in Europe but it is well worth a visit, so rich it is in culture and beautiful sights to see. 



  1. Genießen Sie bitte das Eisbein und Bier auf Pragerstrasse in Dresden :-)

    1. thank you for your recommendation.

  2. I did not know where lay Mr. Bach; now I know!