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Bach Festivals & Cantata Series
Bachfest Leipzig

Name:

Bachfest Leipzig (sometimes called Bach Festival Leipzig or Leipzig Bach Festival)

Location:

Leipzig, Saxony, Germany

Venues:

Various locations in and around Leipzig, including:
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Nikolaikirche, Leipzig
Ev.-Reformierte Kirche, Leipzig
Michaeliskirche, Leipzig
Altes Rathhaus, Leipzig
Alte Handelbrörse, Leipzig

Years:

From 1904 to 1989: 26 festivals had taken place under several names: "Bachfest Leipzig", "Bach Days", "Bach Festival" or "Bach Week Festivals".
Since 1999 (Annual Festival)

Months:

June (since 2006; in the past was sometimes in April or May)

Artistic Director:

Georg Christoph Biller, Thomaskantor
Elmar Weingarten, Artistic Director of Tonhalle Zürich
Christoph Wolff, Harvard University and Bach-Archiv Leipzig

Ensembles:

Thomanerchor Leipzig (St. Thomas’ Boys Choir) and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig participate regularly in the Bachfest Leipzig.
Other ensembles particpate as guests.

Website:

Bachfest Leipzig [German and English and partly Japanese]

History & Mission:

Since 1904, festivals to honour J.S. Bach have been held in Leipzig from time to time. Firstly initiated by members of the Neue Bachgesellschaft (New Bach Society), the city of Leipzig gradually took over the organisation after 1908, when the "First Bachfest Leipzig" took place to celebrate the unveiling of the new Bach monument on Thomaskirchhof square. Karl Straube (1873-1950), who became Thomaskantor later, was the man of the first hour and the driving force in the first years.

So the idea of a festival to honour Bach in Leipzig is much older than most of the well-known German music festivals (e.g. Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern etc.).

By the year 1989, 26 festivals had taken place under several names: "Bachfest Leipzig", "Bach Days", "Bach Festival" or "Bach Week Festivals". The fact that certain ideologies tried to incorporate the festival shows most clearly in names such as "Reichs-Bach-Fest 1935".

In times of dictatorship, the ideologies even determined the programme of the Bachfest. The Nazi propaganda showed Bach as a German national hero; in the GDR, since 1950, there had been attemps to emphasize only on the secular works of J.S. Bach. The Leipzig Bachfests however remained widely unaffected by this, due to the fact that they had been arranged by the "Neue Bachgesellschaft" which was still a pan-German organisation.

The slogan "Leipzig, city of music" has repeatedly appeared from the 1920's on. However, at least from the mid 1990's, it is about more than simply giving the city a well-sounding byname. It was officially decided - applying the marketing strategies of Salzburg with its most famous citizen W.A. Mozart - "to represent Leipzig as city of Bach and apart from that as a city of culture and music." The city council followed that line with its resolution to establish an annual Bachfest from 1999 on. The organisation and realisation of the festival was entrusted to the Bach Archive Leipzig.

The "new era" of the Bachfest Leipzig began in 1999, when approximately 15,000 visitors attended the about 30 events. This was quite a pleasant outcome, but completely outstripped by the following year’s success. The year 2000 was a J.S. Bach memorial year, so more than 70,000 visitors poured into the city to enjoy many excellent concerts. A lot of renowned artists performed in Leipzig, each of them honouring Bach in their own personal way. Leipzig was the centre of the music world. For three months, a 54 by 54 metre portrait of the composer was put up above the city centre; St. Thomas Church with the new Bach organ was re-opened after a restoration made possible by numerous donations; a 24-hour multi-media event was broadcast all over the world to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s death; more than 90 concerts delighted the audience; many museums took part in the festival by organising special Bach exhibitions.

In the years after the exceptional festival in 2000, the Bachfest was able to establish itself among the many music festivals and the almost 30 German Bach festivals even with its comparably low budget. This was thanks to two important factors, namely the quality of the programme and the authenticity of the locations. Both are closely linked to each other, because even for established artists it is always something special to perform at the original Bach locations. And also for the audience from all over the world these factors are a good reason to come to Leipzig. A constant increase in visitor numbers backs up the concept of the Bachfest which has proven successful since 1999 with a mixture of secular and sacred concerts, atmospheric jazz interpretations, chamber concerts, open air events, and organ trips.

Various anniversaries will have an impact on in the Bachfest in the next years. In 2010, Robert Schumann (200th birthday anniversary) and Johannes Brahms are going to be commemorated. Two years later, it is the Thomanerchor Leipzig that can look back on an 800-year tradition; the year 2017 will be dedicated to Martin Luther.

J.S. Bach’s next milestone birthday lies a little further in the future: in 2035, we will celebrate the anniversary of his 350th birthday…

Recent Festivals:

May 12-16, 1999
Jul 21-30, 2000
May 23-27, 2001
May 3-12, 2002
May 23-Jun 1, 2003
May 14-23, 2004
Apr 29-May 8, 2005
May 27-Jun 5, 2006
Jun 7-17, 2007

Jun 13-22, 2008
Jun 11-21, 2009
Jun 11-20, 2010
Jun 10-19, 2011
Jun 7-17, 2012
Jun 14-23, 2013
Jun 13-22, 2014
Jun 12-21, 2015

Logo:

1908

1911

1914

1935

1975

1999

2000-1

2002-2

2001

2002

2003

2004
Bach und die Romantik

2005
Bach und die Zukunft

2006
Von Bach zu Mozart

2007
Von Monteverdi zu Bach
Programme

Programme

2008
Bach und seine Söhne

2009
Bach - Mendelssohn - Reger

2010
Bach - Schumann - Brahms

2011

Programme

Source: Bachfest Leipzig Website & other websites; Clemens Buchwald - Marketingreferent, Bach-Archiv Leipzig (December 2009)

Prepared by Aryeh Oron (October 2009 - September 2014)

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series: Main Page: Countries A-I | Page 2: Countries J-Z | Schedule of Concerts of Bach's Vocal Works
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Major Bach Events: Year 2015 | Year 2014 | Year 2013 | Year 2012 | Year 2011 | Year 2010 | Year 2009

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Last update: ýSeptember 21, 2014 ý10:11:53