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Bach Tour - Places associated with Bach
Discussions - Part 1

Impressions from a Bach Trip July 2002

Marie Jensen wrote (July 24, 2002):
I would like to share a few impressions with you from my Bach Trip July 02. I know this is off topic, but if I write to the Mizler Society, only a few will see it. Else accept my apologies and delete my message.

Jan Koster's web site: is still an excellent guide to it all but some opening hours of churches and museums have been changed - fortunately to the better.

We were in Leipzig last year. This time my patient husband (not Bach interested at all) drove me through most of the rest: Köthen, Weimar, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Ohrdruf and Dornheim. A big thank to him!

Köthen (Bach’s non-church period 1717-23): A furious shower was raining when we arrived via Dessau (Bauhaus style) through charming small villages. It took me a while to understand, that we are not in 1717 anymore. In my imagination the castle dominated the town, but in fact it is jammed in the middle of it all. The rather small park with an Indian style play ground could be situated everywhere. If I did not know Bach had been working here, I would say: What a decayed spooky place; perfect for a November night ghost movie!

It was strange to stand in the yard. The Bach wing is the only part that has been painted. The main entrance is now being restored. On you can see more rooms in the castle.

In the terrible rain no one was visiting the museum. The two attendants were rather surprised, when we arrived. Only the non-Bach part and the chapel were open. We had to ask to see the 3 Bach rooms and the wonderful "Spiegelsaal".

Köthen does not promote Bach very much. You have to look for him, ask for him. And yet he has given name to a beer (I did not taste it) and a pharmacy. There is a "Johann Sebastian Bach Platz" at Wallstrasse, where he perhaps lived, with an Irish pub ?!?. The town has a very "Ossi" industrial zone, but also a nice center with historical buildings. And exactly as when Jan Koster was there: no foreign tourists.

Next day we went to Thüringen. In Weimar there were no Bach places left, so we went straight to Concentration Camp Buchenwald: A disgusting place - a few kilometres from where Bach once wrote the cantata "Komm du Süsse Todesstunde" and "Ich hatte viel Bekümmerniss" (BWV 21)

Arnstadt (1703-1707): This was the best Bach place! If you ever go on a similar trip, stay here and visit the other Bach towns near by on one-day excursions. Its center is a pearl - Bach or not! Old half-timbered houses, nice squares, not much traffic, cool brooks streaming between the houses here and there. The Bach Kirche, where Bach was organist in his youth, is situated on a hill in the middle of it all. This was a greater moment than I expected. The door was open and organ music filled the room. Well not the real thing - but a CD. I bought it: It is called " Bach in Arnstadt" It contains BWV's higher than 1100: early chorales, and some well known early preludes and fugues too. The booklet tells a lot about the Wender organ but nothing of the chorales. The organ uses natural winds. Signals to the organ blower are given in the beginning and in the end. Gottfried Preller is playing. I can recommend the CD very much. The publisher is "Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchgemeinde Arnstadt" . I don't know if it can be bought elsewhere. In Haus Zum Palmbaum you can see the old Wender organ-console.

I tried to imagine Bach as a teenager. Wild. Provoking. The untraditional wiggles Bach statue at the market square has some of this provoking attitude. His fight with Student Geyersbach took place there. It was nice to sit under the green trees. Next day on an Autobahn picnic area I see a young man with ponytail and a guitar, ready to play for his friends. I think of young JSB.

We dined at café at the corner of Ledermarket and Holzmarket. Suddenly I see a memory tablet and a well-known crest above a door on the other side of the street. The Bachs lived there. But it is not the old house. I didn’t ask. Two laughing teenage girls passed the door. Barbara?

[You can stay very cheaply, at Thiels, Richard Wagner Strasse 34, ten minutes walk from the center. It is a private "Zimmer Frei". The old man there is very helpful, not interested in Bach at all, but he loves to tell about everything else, of Adolph, as he calls him and later the Russians, and his own life, and he will tell you his philosophy again and again: No matter how you feel inside - Always smile!] (Since Mr. Thiels passed away, this paragraph is no longer valid, March 2007)

Eisenach (1685-1694): Again I had imagined the town smaller and the houses lower, than they were. But why should time stop, because JSB was born here? Like everywhere else - cars with open windows turn around a corner, and RAP music nearly knocks you over. It is a rather lively town surrounded by green heights. Say Eisenach to a German, and he will not answer: Bach, but Wartburg; the landmark of the town, in many ways important in history.

Perhaps weather and an irritating parking experience made me negative and stressed. I did not like the town very much. Bach did not work here. The Bach Haus is probably not the real birthplace. It has been bombed in WW2 and rebuilt. But the keyboard-playing guide was a nice surprise. He played a mini concert for us: We were only five persons present! (At Wartburg there were hundreds!) It was interesting to see the old kitchen, bedroom and living room. Enjoying music does not have to imply huge CD-collections, soft cushions and coaches. I am sure they have had a great time sitting on the high backed baroque chairs listening to the mute clavichord. If you go there, remember to take a walk in the garden! I saw Georgenkirche where Bach was baptised. Telemann lived in Eisenach for a period. Now his home is a post office :-). There is a Luther Haus too, but we did not visit it. An exciting nature experience is Drachenschlucht a few kilometres south of the town.

Ohrdruf (1695-1700, where Sebastian lived with his older brother after his parents died.). There is not much to be found here. I knew. We found the tower of the Michaeliskirche. An iron sculpture should represent Bach’s music! No, no, no! Near the tower there is a school, built later. Next to it flows a brook under shady trees. A nice place. Koster gives an excellent description of the town.

Finally: Dornheim (1707) the morning we left. What a romantic little village church with red flowers at the wooden balcony. Here I felt back in time. Imagined BWV 196. Bach was married to Maria Barbara here. I could not get inside. Somebody had locked the door from inside and played cello.... Bach!

Olle Hedström wrote (July 15, 2002):
[To Marie Jensen] Thanks for your interesting "Bach Trip Report". Me and my father went on a Bach trip to Eisenach and Leipzig in 1975 during the communistregime. It was then a risky undertaking in numerous ways.My father is dead now, but I am planning to go on a similar trip in 2003, therefore you report was of great value.


Tour of Bach

Continue of discussion from: Members of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List - Part 5: Year 2003

Olle Hedström wrote (October 18, 2003):
[To Carol] Thanks for your interesting reflections on JSBach. I feel much the same as you do. The music of Bach got me "hooked" many years ago, and there's nothing indicating that my interest in,(obsession with) his music is fading. On the contrary. I live with his vocal works on a daily basis like you do. It's like a lust in my body, and also a deep recreation of the mind/soul. No music affects me in the way his cantatas and other vocal works do. Even though I listen to a lot of other classical music, I always come back to Bach. Contrary to you, I have everything Bach left behind available on records, and I have heard all of it. Most of it numerous times. Still I feel like I'm only at the beginning of exploring his wondeful legacy.Constantly I find myself captured and intrigued by new discoveries in the cantatas I thought I already knew. Bach's music isn't merely good it's special, overwhelming, captivating, deeply spiritual, even for people who have no religious beliefs at all. It's strange, isn't it ?

Last Easter I made the journey of my life, a trip in the footsteps of Bach. If you and others are interested I will give you my report. Let me know.

Zev Bechler wrote (October 18, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] I intend to do the same and am very interested in your advice.Thank you,

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 18, 2003):
Olle Hedström wrote:
< Last Easter I made the journey of my life, a trip in the footsteps of Bach. If you and others are interested I will give you my report. Let me know. >
Only now I realise that exactly 4 years have passed since I made my Bach tour in the first half of October 1999, visiting 17 towns and villages with connection to Bach, most of them in the former Eastern Germany. This tour re-initiated my interest in Bach's music, especially his cantatas and other vocal works. Immediately when I came bach to my country, I joined the BRML, the BCML, and you know the rest... I have listened almost exclusively to Bach's music in those four years and I am still not saturated.

My recollections of the visit to Dornheim can be found in the discussion of Cantata BWV 196. See:

Marie Jensen shared with us impressions from of her Bach tour. See:
Looking at your feedback to Marie's message, I see that you have fulfilled your dream!

Why don't you share with us (members of BCML/BRML) impressions from your Bach tour?

Eitan Loew wrote (October 18, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Just because the issue came up, I would like to tell you that I have made a Bach tour in June 2001. Like Marie Jensen I used Jan Koster's wonderful site:
to plan the trip. I have been to all places that Koster mentioned, with the exception of Lüneburg, which is far out of the area where Bach had spent most of his life, and I didn't feel that it is of much importance (he was 15 years old then). Isn't it amazing that Bach knew the music of Europe without even leaving an area which can be circled by a radius of some 150 kms?

Since I am not as good as Marie in describing my trip, I would only like to recommend you the site, should somebody like to do the same. First we stayed at Gotha, from which it is about 1/2 an hour drive to all Thuringia Bach sites and then we moved to Leipzig (to visit Köthen we drove from there).

Bear in mind that Koster did his trip in 1993 - the tourist facilities improved a lot since. Other than that - his descriptions and guideness are very useful.

Olle Hedström wrote (October 18, 2003):
[To Zev, Aryeh and others who might be interested]
I will post my report from "My Bachtrip of the Easter of 2003" shortly.

John Pike wrote (October 21, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] I, too, did a pilgrimage to all the towns in Germany in which Bach lived and worked some years ago…wonderful.

Personally, I think the secret of his music is divine inspiration. I cannot think of any other way in which something so consistently perfect could be produced by a human being.

Bob Henderson wrote (Octyober 21, 2003):
[To John Pike] I agree, John. But then I think that we are all inspired by Divine Creation in our own way. How to parcel this.

Olle Hedström wrote (October 21, 2003):
[To John Pike] What year did you undertake your Bach-pilgrimage ?

I really would appreciate your report, since I have done two such Bach-tours myself, one in 1975 (during the communiste regime) and one last Easter, 2003. I eventually intend to write a report for everybody who is interested.

It is interesting what you state about Bach's inspiration when creating his masterpieces, but if there is no God there cannot be any such devine inspiration, can there ?

Even for a nonbeliever it is tempting to suspect some kind of inspiration from beyond. His music is simply too good to be from a mere human being, or is it only the handicraft of an unusually gifted person ? I reflect over this most of the time I listen to his music, and it only puzzles me the more when I occupy myself with these extraordinary masterpieces. I'm not a believer myself, and I do not confess to any religion, yet something strange happens to me, all the time I listen to Bach, especially his vocal pieces. Something which I cannot explain and something which I suspect is as close to religion I will ever come.

What do you think ?

John Pike wrote (October 21, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] I did my bach pilgrimage in 1989, shortly after the Berlin wall fell. I had visited Lüneberg sometime before that. I wrote a report at the time on an old word processor and I still have a hard copy. I will scan it in to the computer when I get time and mail it to the list, although the style is not one of which I am proud, since I wrote it when much younger.

Myself, I am an active believer in Jesus Christ and attend church regularly. This is not the place to explain why my faith is so strong, but it is one thing I do have in common with the great man himself, of course. As you will know, Bach was a very devout Christian and possessed a large library of Christian books. His faith was apparently undiminished by all the sadness in his life and he was certainly very open about where HE felt his inspiration came from. I believe that he used the abbreviations JJ, SDG and AMDG etc frequently on his scores, all alluding to his beliefs that Jesus would help him, that his music was by the grace of God alone and that it was written for the greater glory of God (scholars please forgive me inaccuracies here). A former director of music at my church (where we frequently preform concertos and cantata movements by Bach) once said to me "John, when we get to heaven I am sure that JSB will be director of music there!" What a wonderful thought....I can hardly wait!

Jan Koster wrote (October 18, 2003):
[To Eitan Loew] I'm glad to learn that my report on the Bach tour I made in 1995 (not 1993) is still widely used. I have had no opportunity to check and update the touristic information, but hope to do that at some point in the future. Note, by the way, that my J.S. Bach Tourist is not only a tourist guide. It also is a reflection on Europe's past and, most important of all, something about the last trip I made with my father, shortly before his death.


Your Bach tour

Carol wrote (January 3, 2004):
[To Olle Hedström] This may be late for you, but I may not have responded to your nice message of October 18. If that is the case, it was not intentional but rude of me. I saved it, however, and you offered to email your report on the trip you took last Easter to places Bach had been. Do you still have it? I'd like to read it.

Olle Hedström wrote (January 3, 2004):
[To Carol] Thething is that I haven't still taken the time to write such a report, although I've been thinking about it a lot. I vaguelly recall that I promised to post it.

Yes, of course I will. It will eventually turn up. I hope it is OK even though it is i little bit off topic, not specifically concerning Bach recordings or Bach cantatas ? It was such a wonderful experience to walk in Bach's footsteps that I wouldn't withhold it from anybody with interest in the matter.

Be patient!



Olle Hedström wrote (January 4, 2004):
To Carol and others interested in my Bachtrip, Easter 2003.

Those of you only interested in Bachrecordings, please delete.

I have done two journeys in Bach's footsteps in my life, one in 1975, and one last year, Easter, 2003. They were totally different as you can imagine.


The problems occured immediately when we were to pass the border between the Bundesrepublik and the DDR. There were few places where you could actually pass into East Germany at that time. We went through Grenzübergangstelle Warta. The bureaucracy was simply beyond belief. It took hours although there were no cues, and it cost us plenty of Westgerman currency. We had to fill in lots of documents as well. We were met with great suspiciency before we received our visas for two days stay in the DDR. They also examined our car into the minutest details before letting us pass the border. The roads were in a very poor condition, but we soon reached Eisenach, Bach's birthplace, close to the border on the East side. We visited the Bachmuseum, which was very interesting. The police stopped us several times to control our papers, and we also had the bad fortune to have problems with our car. The police informed us regarding a carrepair: "das würde Ihnen sehr viel Geld kosten" (that will cost you an enormous amount of money) We finally made it to Leipzig though and visited the Thomaskirche which was in a terrible state as far as the exterior was concerned. It was totally black, probably from the terrible pollutions that took place in the east in those days. I never found out whether services were held in the churches. I don't believe they were very frequent though. It was a bad thing that most of the places Bach lived at were situated in the east.


This time we decided to visit the following Bachplaces: Leipzig, Eisenach, Mühlhausen, Arnstadt, Dornheim and Köthen. We didn't have time for Weimar, Ohrdruf and Lüneburg, but those places, I believe, have little to offer for Bachtourists these days.

The other ones are much more significant.

Nowadays 13 years after the reunion of the two German states, you don't feel there are any major differences between the two parts. The motorways are in good condition and you travel quickly through the former DDR. Of course there are still many houses in need of repair and the standard of living is probably not as high as in the west, but on the whole it is quite nice to go touristing in these parts of Germany.

Leipzig is a big city and after our arrival at the hotel (I travelled with my wife and eldest son) we hurried down town by streetcar, this was a nice way to get around and to see a lot without having to walk, or having carpark problems.

Leipzig nowadays really promote Bach a lot.

First of all you have the Thomaskirche. It has been renovated to the Bach year 2000, both externally and internally to a very high standard. A new organ has been constructed against the north wall, after a Bachorgan in the Georgenkirche in Eisenach. There is a fine Thomasshop close to the main entrance, where you can buy a lot of Bach items: CDs, DVDs, books, posters, calenders, even whines. At the south side of the Thomaskirche, opposite the Thomaskirchhof, is the famous Bosehouse, nowadays home of the Bach Archive, Bachmuseum and concert hall.

It was fascinating to be guided round this museum. This Archive even contains original Bachscores, but of course we weren't allowed to see those. There are Bachcafés and -restaurants around the Thomaskirchhof and you see Bach's picture almost everywhere.

There is also a big exhibition on Bach, ouside the entrance to the church as well as inside, so there are lots to see here, and you are obviously touched by beeing in the centre of Bach's whereabouts for the 27 last years of his life.

In the south sacristy of the Thomaskirche is another wonderful exhibition with original instruments, books, manuscripts etc.

Don't forget to see Mendelssohn's Bach statue errected in 1843 sothwest of the church, and of course you can't miss the Bach-Monument by Carl Seffner in front of the Thomaschurch.

The St Thomas's school was unfortunately torn down in 1902, and is today replaced by another building to the west of the main entrance of the church. The only thing that remains from Bach's time in the school is the door to the family's flat. It is on display in the Bach Archive. It is a pity that this building is gone, since that school would have been the ultimate place for a Bachmuseum had it been left untouched.

Then of course you must enter the church and sit down and contemplate Bach's grave in "der Chorraum". There are his remains, at least what is believed to be his bones. There is no absolute proof of this, but there is a high degree of certainty. His remains were moved from the Johanniskirche after WW 2 and put to their final rest in St Thomas' church beneath the high altar in 1950 I think it was.

After this I suggest a visit to the Marketplace and the old City Hall, close by. In the City Hall you can visit another inspiring museum. In the "Ratsstube" (= the conference hall in which Bach signed his official contract on May 5th, 1723 and formally became cantor at St Thomas's and in charge of the music for the entire city.)

The first thing that captivates you upon entering there, is the Hauzmann original portrait from 1746, hanging on the south wall.

All my life I've dreamt of seeing this original portrait. It's simply breathtaking to experience live.

To the left is another wellknown man on canvas; Gottfried Reiche, contemporary trumpeter, who died after performing a Bachwork.

We also entered the St Nicolaus's church and courtyard, but the church was undergoing an internal renovation and we didn't have more time.

Close to this church there's a wonderful recordschop (Opus 61) specializing in Bach's music. There you could find everything concerning Bach on record, even recordings with former cantors of St Thomas's for example Günter Ramin and Karl Straube to name a few. Apart from CDs and DVDs you can buy Bachposters, Bachbusts etc.

Also pay attention to:

the House of Clara and Robert Schumann, at Inselstrasse 18. They lived here for four years together (1840-44), and those years they delved extensively into Bach's music.

On Goldschmidtstrasse 10, is the House of Felix and Cecile Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was the director of the Gewandthouse, and partly responsible for waking Bach's music to life in the 1840s. He died in this house in 1847. There is also an exhibition here showing Mendelssohn's intense relationship to Bach's music.

There is also a vibrant musiclife in Leipzig. Bach's music is frequently performed here to a very high standard, which I could experience myself on Good Friday this Easter week.

We attended the St John passion with The Thomanerboys and the Gewandthouse Orchestra.

There we wersitting in Bach's church on Good Friday with our feet practically touching his graveplate listening to an extraordinary performance simultaneously broadcasted on radio. This was easily the event of my life so far.

Leipzig is certainly a "Mekka" for a Bachlover and you need at least two days to walk in Bach's footsteps here.

It's also a good thing that the old city of Leipzig has been left intact to such a high degree in spite of all the hardships this region has suffered through the ages and especially during WW 2.

The following day we went to Eisenach, Mühlhausen, Arnstadt and Dornheim in Thüringia. It takes about 2,5 hours drive from Leipzig. All these places are close to each other, but nevertheless it turned out to be too short a time to cover them radically in only one day like we did. Anyway it was memorable.

We hurried to the Bachhaus in the centre of this beautifully situated Thüringian town, Eisenach.

It is at the Frauenplan and has been a Bachmuseum since 1907, for almost 100 years. It was more or less destroyed by the bombs of the allied during the war, but was rebuilt to its original form after the war. We don't know for certain if this in fact was Bach's birthplace, but surely it was a house similar to this one and certainly not far from this one if so.

The Bachhaus is a goldmine for a Bachtourist. First of all after paying the entrance fee, we were offered a small concert and

speach on Bach's life by employees of the museum. This turned out to be a charming initiative, but of course you have to understand German, which fortunately I do sufficiently after studying it at school for six years. The staff played music by Bach on a harpsichord in the Instrumentensaal, where we were sitting and they played orchestral music from speakers and afterwards commented on it. Very interesting and well undertaken.

In this room there are lots of instruments from the 18th century, even a small organ and several cembalos/harpsichords.

The famous original Ihle portrait from 1720 is hanging here too.

Outside is the Bachdenkmal from 1884. A Bachstatue, and there is also a lovely garden at the back of the house, from which you also, just across the street, can see a house that we know for certain belonged to Bach's father for a time: Johann Ambrosius Bach (1645-95)

You could of course, as in Leipzig, buy lots of Bachsouvenirs in the Bachshop here.

Only 5 minutes walk away from the Bachmuseum is the Georgenkirche in which Bach was baptised on the 23 of March 1685. There is the baptisimal stone intact and one of the few pieces we can still touch today from Bach's days.

In this church there is also an extensive exhibition on Bach and Martin Luther, the other famous person coming from this town.

After climbing the hill to the Wartburg castle, where Luther is said to have translated the bible into German, we had lunch overlooking the pastoral Thüringian landscape. Later we went on to Mühlhausen north of Eisenach.

Mühlhausen is the town where Bach was organist 1707-08 at the Divi Blasii church. There is a memorial plate to the right before you go through the main entrance. The other church which Bach also attended a lot is the Marienkirche only some blocks away.

It was being renovated inside, and you also had to pay an entrance fee to get into it. Both these churches are more like cathederals, especially the Marienkirche. The town is very old and a beautiful place to visit. I wish we would have had more time at our disposal, but we had to hurry to see Arnstadt.

Arnstadt is also a very nice Bachtown, where Bach was employed from 1703-07 as organist at the Neue Kirche, nowadays the Bachkirche. We came there late in the afternoon to find out that the Bachchurch had closed for the day, which of course made us a little disappointed. There is a Bachstatue at the marketplace, showing a young Bach, contrary to all pictures you have seen of Bach so far.

Unfortunately the Bachmuseum, the Haus zum Palmbaum in Arnstadt was also closed, but I have learned that there is a Bach memorial room there too with a Wenderorgan from Bach's days at display. There are many houses here where Bachs have lived for generations. A little turned down by everything being closed we sat down at a café at the town square overlooking the Bachkirche and had some coffee with a Bachcake. It was a great sensation though to just sit there and feel the mood of this ancient city and the historical closeness to Bach.

We also had planned to visit the BartolomäiChurch in Dornheim, where Bach married his young bride Maria Barbara in Oct. 1707.

At the tourist information centre we were very well taken care of and given a map to find it easier.

Dornheim is only 10 minutes drive from Arnstadt. It is a very small village, probably not any bigger than in Bach's days.

Outside the well restored country church there are two memorial plates regarding Bach's marriage to Maria Barbara.

This church was also closed unfortunately, but it was all the same an experience I will never forget. Like to travel in time.

You could almost sense being there on this happy occasion of the 22 -year old Bach and his equally young bride.

Late in the evening we returned to Leipzig after a day full of impressions that will stay with me for good.

The next day we left Leipzig and on our journey back to Sweden we passed close to Köthen, where we naturally stopped for a visit. It is situated nortwest of Leipzig only an hour away by car. It took as some time to locate the old castle. We had to ask around for it, but it turned out to be in the middle of town, but difficult to see at first.

The castle is partially renovated, and the wing with the famous Spiegelsaal and the Bachmuseum is in the renovated part of the building. Upon entering the Spiegelsaal, where presumably many of Bach's concerts took place, we had to take off our shoes and put on slippers. This magnificent room is awesome to enter. It's like being transported back to Bach's days in a moment.

There is a Bach bust and a Mozart bust in this room. In the museum there are numerous instruments and portraits, among others a huge painting of Bach's employer Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. There is also a commemorative plate on the wall ouside the main entrance to the castle reminding the visitor of the famous person who once was employed here.

If you have read this far you understand by now that this was easily the journey of my life, and one that I wouldn't hesitate to do again if I had the opportunity. I strongly urge anybody interested in Bach to undertake this pilgrimage. It will certainly be worth the time and money you will spend on it and will surely be something that you will keep in mind as a fond memory for the rest of your life.

Carol wrote (January 6, 2004):
[To Olle Hedström] That was very interesting, Olle, both your description of the political situation of each trip, and the personal effect they had on you. I wonder if Bach has any known living relatives.


Bach Tour 2004

Olle Hedström wrote (May 19, 2004):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I have just come bach from my 2nd Bach Tour. >
When will you give us your report from your 2nd Bach tour ?

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Olle Hedström] Patience please. I have just arrived.

As an appetit, here are some figures:
The 14-day tour included visiting about 40 places associated with Bach, starting from Hamburg in the North and finishing with Meiningen in the south. In between we have managed to attend the opening evening and two days of the Bach Festival in Leipzig. I have collected tremendous amount of material, took about 250 photos. A lot of work is awaiting for me organising the material, and put it into the Guide to Bach Tour. I shall update the BCML about the proceedings.

John Pike wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] Sounds wunderbar!

Olle Hedström wrote (May 20, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] I can hardly wait.....................


Bach Tour - Zeitz

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 4, 2005):
We visited Zeitz in the afternoon of May 12, 2004, on our way from Weißenfels/Naumburg to Altenburg. In Wolff's book 'Johann Sebastian Bach - The Learned Musician' there is a map showing places of Bach's activities. Zeitz is marked with triangle, which means that this is a place Bach visited. Nothing in the body of the book confirms such a visit. The only connection of J.S. Bach to Zeitz of which I am aware is that his second wife, Anna Magdalena, was born there on September 22, 1701. Her father, Johann Caspar Wilcke, was a court trumpeter; he worked at Zeitz until about February 1718, when he moved to Weißenfels. Had Bach visited Anna Magdalena's hometown before they got married or did they visit Zeitz afterwards? The answer is most probably positive, since this small town is situated on the river Weiße Elster in the middle of the triangle of the federal states Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony. That means that it is very close to many other places of which we have firm evidence of Bach visits.

Before visiting Zeitz, I imagined that a small museum exists in the house where Anna Magdalena was born. After all, for a Bach lover this should be the most important place in the town. Opposite the entry to the town we could see the impressive Michaeliskirche. We entered the town and found immediately the Tourist Information in the Altmarkt. My first question was about the location of The House. The woman at the TI was very kind to show it to us on the city map. However, the maps of the city, including the Old Town map, do not indicate the exact place. This was suspicious. We immediately went to the place where the house was supposed to be and found nothing! We went up and down the empty street. Nobody was out. Suddenly I heard a blacksmith working. I entered the yard, asked him about the place, and he was very kind to stop working and showing me the exact location. Then we realised why it was so hard to find. This is a modern house, with people living in. The birth-house of Anna Magdalena was not preserved; neither it has been reconstructed. The place is indicated by a commemorative tablet on the outer wall of the house. You can see some photos of the house at the page:

There are other places to visit in this charming small town, especially ijn the Old Town, as can be seen in the other photo pages of Zeitz at the Bach Tour section of the BCW. See:
We were so disappointed that we decided to live the town a short while afterwards.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 4, 2005):
[<snip>BTW, thanks Aryeh, for the guided tour of Zeitz!]


From Sydney

Stephen Fitzgerald wrote (May 18, 2005):
I've just joined. I live in Sydney, Australia. In the spring/early summer of 2006 I want to spend some weeks walking through places where Bach lived, and there to find opportunities to listen to performances of his cantatas and other choral music. Has anyone done this?

George LeFurjah wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To Stephen FitzGerald] Jan Koster had an excellent article describing his Bach tourism on is web site. I just tried to load it but there was an error. Contact him at: and ask him if there is a new URL for his wonderful travelogue. Also see similar descriptions on the Bach cantatas website:

I have been planning such a trip myself for several years now. I hope I live long enough to actually take the trip!

John Pike wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To Stephen FitzGerald] A number of years ago now I did such a pilgrimage. That was in 1991, and much has changed since then. A lot of the places are off the beaten track and you will need a car. I would also recommend a few other places you should visit, not necessarily with major Bach connections (or only preipheral ones). They include Wittenburg (Lutherstadt), Halle (Handel's birthplace), Naumburg, Erfurt, Gotha, Jena and Gera. Be sure to visit Lueneburg, Hamburg, Luebeck, Potsdam and Berlin in the north, and, in the south, Eisenach and the Wartburg castle, Ohrdruf, Arnstadt, Weimar, Mühlhausen, Leipzig, Cöthen and Dresden. You will need at least 2 weeks for all that. I suggest you start in Berlin and do the south first (where the most important places are) and then do as many of the northern places as you have time for.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To Stephen FitzGerald] Welcome aboard.

I did two Bach Tours. In the first - October 1999, I visited 17 places associated with Bach. In the second - May 2004, I visited about 40. I have prepared Guide to Bach Tour, which includes all the places associated with Bach. For each place you can find description & history, Bach's connection, features of interest, many photos, etc. I have still a lot of material to be insereted, but what you can already find in this section of the BCW should be a good starting point. See:

You can find the following pages also useful for preparing your trip:
Worldwide schedule of Bach's Vocal Works:
Performance Dates of Bach's Vocal Works:
Previous Discussions of Bach Tour:
Route Suggestions:

Jan Hanford wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To George LeFurjah] I run and contacted Jan Koster about the problem with his site. The university server goes down a lot. I'm sure it will be back up soon.

Jim Offer wrote (May 18, 2005):
[To Stephen FitzGerald] No, I haven't, but it sounds as if you're planning to go to the Bach festival: ( One day, when I possess enough money and German, that's something I'd like to experience, and maybe even stay long enough to hop a train to Austria for the Schubertiade.

Steve FitzGerald [BCML - Sydney, Australia] wrote (July 11, 2005):
I should have done this before, but thank you, thank you, for your extraordinarily wonderful Guide to Bach Tour. Its a in its own right, but whets my appetite still more for the tour I will make next year. I also intend to take enough time to do some walking/hiking where that is possible, to get a feel for the landscape in which Bach lived, although I fear much of it will have been built up and urbanised.

Thanks again.


Discussion on Bach Tour

Bernard Têtu [Ste.-Foy, Québec, Canada] wrote (August 26, 2005):
In 2004 and 2005, my wife and I visit most Bach cities. We brought a lot of information obtained from your fantastic web site. I would like to share our impressions with you. Feel free to post it on the web site if you wish <>.

In June 2004 and June 2005, my wife and I had a chance to visit most Bach cities. I must say that, despite a few changes especially on opening hours, the tour description by Jan Koster is clearly the best guide to take with you as a Bach tourist to make sure you don't miss the major key sites. This tour has been for us a most emotional pilgrimage and I don't listen to Bach music the same way since then because I constantly remember pictures of sites where each work has been written and performed.

Eisenach is a nice city and the Bachhaus, despite the uncertainty on the authenticity of being the actual Bach birth place, is still worth the visit. The exhibition of ancient instruments and the small concert by the guide are most interesting. A Bach tourist should also visit the Georgienkirche where Bach was baptized and the Lutherstrasse 35 which is, according to Jan Koster, Bach's more likely birth place.

Arnstadt is a nice small town. The Bach monument by Bernd Göbel, the old cemetery in which more than twenty members of the Bach family are buried and the Bachkirche are worth the visit. The Bach statue is particularly provocative because he looks so young compared to most famous paintings reproduced on CD's. It made me realize that Bach was indeed a young adult as he was living in Arnstadt.

Dornheim is located about 3 km east of Arnstadt and is probably one of the Bach cities which remained most authentic over the centuries. If you are
staying in Arnstadt, one of the best way to get to Dornheim is by bicycle which can easily be rented in the city. You follow one of the bicycle paths that takes you through the nice hilly Thuringia landscape, directy to Dornheim. It gives you a very good idea of how Bach was feeling if he ever travelled from Arnstadt to Dornheim (which he probably did). We had a chance to visit the inside of the small chapel in which Bach and Maria Barbara celebrated their marriage. Part of the church is still in its original state.

Weimar is a beautiful city. As noted by Jan Koster, there are few places where the name of Bach is mentioned. However, part of the castle with the tower and adjacent gateway are from Bach's time. On our way to the Goethe's Gartenhaus, we bought a nice watercolor of the castle. The artist was painting and exhibiting on site. The house where Bach was living doesn't exist anymore but a commemorative tablet mentions that Bach was living with his family on this location. The St-Peter and St.-Paul church, also called Herderkirche, where four Bach's children were baptized is worth the visit.

We found that Köthen was also a beautiful small town. I presume that a lot of renovation has been undertaken since the report by Jan Koster. Comparing with historic engravings, it is clear that the outside appearance of the castle has been more completely preserved than that of Weimar. Only part of the western wing (altes Amtshaus) has been bombed during WWII and not rebuilt. The visit of the chapel and the "Spiegelsaal" is particularly interesting. On the house located on Stiftstrasse 11, a commemorative tablet indicates that Bach was presumably living and practicing with his musicians in this place. In St Agnus Kirche, located next to this house, on the right hand side, a guide invited us to see the log book in which attendees to the church were listed, and in which the members of the Bach family were mentioned. The guide showed us a chalice dating back to the Bach's time and he claimed that Bach has certainly put his lips on it.

Leipzig has changed a lot compared to the original drawings and engravings. However, at least the outside appearance of the "Rathaus" and both "Thomaskirche" and "Nikolaikirche" looked pretty much as their were in Bach's time. We had a chance to hear the Cantata BWV 170 in Thomaskirche. It was very emotional to hear a cantata exactly where the work has been performed by the composer for the first time!! Furthermore, we had a chance to see the original of the Haussman painting in the Rathaus, which also had a strong emotional influence on me. The Bach museum located close to Thomaskirche is somewhat disappointing. Indeed, despite the lot of interesting information, there are few original documents.


Off Topic: The Cranach Weimar Altar Painting

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 24, 2008):
I thought some might be interested in an interactive explanation of the Cranach Altar painting that is in the church in Weimar where several of Bach's children were baptized and where a number of his works were performed. A very powerful visual presentation, for which Bach's music is the superb companion.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 24, 2008):
[Paul T. McCain] Thank you Paul...this painting brings the cultural reality of Bach's time and setting home in such a clear manner. I had never seen a copy of this picture before. Thank you for sharing it.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 24, 2008):
[Paul T. McCain] Thank you for bringing this great painting to the attention of our Group. The intriguing possibility is that it would have been known to Bach from his time in Weimar.

The parallel Bach cantata is to my mind BWV 78, "Jesu du der meine seele." In this work? both the imagery of "Christus Victor" and of the atoning Lamb of God are deployed , as are the images of the sprinkling of blood and? instruments of the Passion?. Equally all these themes occur in the painting. Both works demonstrate the ability of Lutheranism to syncretise in an artistic way the components of religious belief.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] The painting is massive, and stands directly over the altar at St. Peter and Paul Church in Weimar, so...whenever Bach entered the church he would have seen the painting.

I appreciated your comments.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Are there any Bach cantatas which use Moses and the Brazen Serpent as a type of the Crucifixion?

Peter Smaill wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] The answer to this interesting question is a partial yes, "Schlange" (Serpent) occurs frequently (BWV 40 for example, where it is Jesus who crushes its head; and BWV 19): try Walter Bischof's Cantata search function for the full range:

I haven't spotted Moses yet but the same source should help.? I'm not sure we will find a better fit than BWV78 and the works I see as parallel expressions of Lutheran religiosity rather than one being directly inspired by the other!

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] I'm also intrigued by a comparison of the Cranach altar with the Van Eyck Ghent Altarpiece in whcih the blood of the Lamb clearly linked with the eucharistic sacrifice in the same kind of vertical axis which runs through Christ to the Lamb of God and down to the altar below the painting.

It would be fascinating create a collection of all the paintings, statuary and prints that Bach might have seen during his life.


OT: Rebuiding the Leipzig University Chapel

Peter Petzling wrote (May 30, 2008):
For Bach Cantata Listers who read German and are interested in the fate of the Leipzig Universitaetskirche, which is being re-built after having been dynamited in 1968 in the heydays of the GDR - I recommend this article from the Rheinische Merkur:

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 31, 2008):
[To Peter Petzling] It's wonderful that it's being rebuilt. I gather that's also true of the Stadtschloss in Berlin (also blown up on Ulbricht's orders).

Peter Petzling wrote (May 31, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Since I let you into the subject of the "rebuilding" of the Pauliner Kirche, allow me to point you to the controversial complexities that surround this matter.

In lieu of the Gothic Pauliner Univ. Kirche of old, the University of Leipzig is currently building - with funds provided by the Freistaat Sachsen - a multi-purpose University building with an "Aula" [auditorium] a n d a devotional chapel space in the very location of the dynamited Church.. The name "Paulinum" is being considered for the structure, which is slated for completion in 2009. There is already strife/controversy about the amount of "educational" vs "devotional" use of the space. Go to the Thomas Kirche website and you will find the welcoming remarks Pastor Wolff made before the memorial concert audience this Friday evening 30. 05. 08. in the Thomas Kirche.

You will quickly see that there is a running argument about the true prospect and naming of the "re-built" structure. The issue is about "spiritual" geistlich vs. "functional" educational use and Pr. Wolff lays claim to the historical performative past of the space. See esp the last but one paragraph of his remarks.

To "see" what they are talking about, there is a another website to look at. - Mittel Deutscher Rundfunk.Click on "Regional Sachsen" and then again on "Studio Leipzig". It will take you to a picture gallery of 8 "Bilder". You will see 4 historical pix -taken just before the Pauliner Kitrche was blown up in 1968. One shows the enormous force of the explosion. Pix 5, 6 show the model of the interior space proposed by the Dutch architect who won the competition. One big issue dividing the parties is a glass-wall that is to separate the larger educational auditorium form the smaller devotional chapel space and with it goes the question whose space it is and what name it will go under. Pix 7 shows the current construction and 8 looks ahead to the "final" look of the "Paulinum" or "University Pauline Chapel".

You can glimpse that a lot of question are converging here and some of them touch on the legacy of J S.Bach. But those are not prime considerations for the University of Leipzig. And yet they will celebrate the 600th anniversary of their founding in a couple of years. As a matter of fact, the Pauliner Kirche preceeds the University of Leipzig by almost 200 years. It dates from the Gothic area - built by Dominicans in the early 13th century. Go figure - in Germany the past often resembles a mine-field and folks disagree about the appropriate meaning.



Continue on Part 2

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