Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Ah, Leipzig. Bach spent his best years here. So why are the street musicians so adamant on obstinately playing only Mozart?

One of life's great mysteries.

Anyway, visited Leipzig's St. Thomas Kirche. Bach was Cantor and Music Director here. The tomb of my idol Bach is also here. I also saw the famous Bach Organ, whose construction was supervised/approved by the musician himself.

The Bach Museum here in Leipzig is so much better than the one in Eisenach. It includes more details about the composer's life and even has an interesting blurb about his second wife Anna Magdalena, relating such details as to how she managed after his famous husband died (she had stopped singing when she became Bach's wife and mother of 13 kids--most died in childhood). Basically, she made do for a while by selling some of Bach's autographs, but eventually died poor as an "Almosenfrau" (i.e. a woman living from charity donations). Sad, huh?

There were also some very interesting blurbs about his kids. They were all pretty remarkable. Wilhelm Friedemann, for instance (eldest son of his and Anna Magdalena), studied Math, Philosophy, and Law at Leipzig University before becoming the Organist and Music Director at Halle, and he was well known as "the best Organist and improviser in Germany". Wow. High achiever, huh?

The museum even has some CD listening stations with examples of some of Bach's Motets, Cantatas, pedagogic works, and examples of baroque flute music (the Brandenburg Concertos, of course), for instance. AND, the museum is right next-door to a remarkably well-stocked sheet music shop. Cool, huh?

By the way, did you know, that for something like a full 5 years, Bach composed 1 cantata a week as part of his job during his time in Leipzig? Yeah, of course you knew. But think about this. Were you to listen to just one of his cantatas a day, it would take you almost 9 months before you had to listen to a repeat. How cool is that? (For an exact list of his surviving cantatas--over 200 of them, about 100 or so more were lost to us, as you know--you may want to take a look for instance here).


Anyway, another great thing about the exhibit was that it spent quite a good number of panels explaining Bach's influence on later romantics like Mendelsohn and Schumann (Mendelsohn for instance gave regular performances of his organ works in the same Church in Leipzig that the Master did), and how they routinely gave concerts and recitals (Clara Schuman too, who was a rather renowned pianist in her day also) featuring his works, and included displays of some of the original recital programs and concert advert flyers.

Back on the side topic on who should fund Art, by the way, if at all. Had Bach not been funded by the Church (and way back then Church and State were very incestuously intertwined), would he have composed as much? Can you imagine a Bach without the St. Matthew's Passion? Without the Mass in B minor? Of course, the Cantatas? Interesting food for speculatory thoughts.

Anyway, in the afternoon I headed over to the GDR museum (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum). Then to the Stasi Museum. I have more to tell you about this but at the moment they're closing the internet cafe so I'll have to leave it as a TBUL. My apologies. But check this entry in a couple of days, I'll add the updates on this same post.


Anonymous said...

One plays Mozart to get change out of people's pockets. One plays Bach to show he can do it.

You note lower on the page that had Bach not been supported by the church he'd not have written so much - kind of proves the point above. Mozart gets support of the people.

Who should support art is now, as then, who benefits from it.

Elisa said...

All good points. Question: Do you consider Mozart ditty playing by students who are sight-reading the piece for the vulgar crowds of passerbys "art"?

And I disagree on your take on why plays Bach. I play Bach, because it is a bit like a mathematical exercise. On the piano, a good Bach interpretation requires superb technique and voicing control, as well as being able to keep the voices separate in your mind real time (none of these abilities which I have even a semblance of, unfortunately, as a quick suffer through listening to me will attest). This gives one (both the interpreter and the listener) a kind of intellectual pleasure, I think, apart from the simple acoustical one, that, in my opinion Mozart, for instance, doesn´t as easily (or not in all of his works) produce. (shrug)

Well, that´s what I think, anyway. At least at the current moment. :)