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Guide to Bach Tour
Gotha
[V]

Contents

Description | History
J.S. Bach: Connection | Events in Life History | Performance Dates of Vocal Works | Festivals & Cantata Series
Features of Interest | Information & Links
Photos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Maps

Description

Gotha is a town in Thuringia, within the central core of Germany. It is the capital of the district of Gotha.

Country: Germany | State: Thuringia | District: Gotha | Area: 69.52 km˛ | Population: 49,500 (December 2006)

History

Gotha has existed at least since the 8th century. It was first mentioned in 775 in a document signed by Karl der Grosse (Charlemagne) as Villa Gotaha ("Good Waters"). Karl der Grosse was the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; he was crowned on Christmas day in 800. Karl der Grosse visited Gotha, which was included in his empire, known as the first German Reich, and slept there at least one night.

The importance of Gotha derives from having been chosen in 1640 as the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha. In the years 1643 to 1655 Emst I the Pious (1601-1675) had Schloss Friedenstein (Friedenstein Catsle) built on top of the foundation walls of Grimmenstein castle. It was to be the seat for his Duchy of Saxe-Gotha. On July 3, 1655 the foundation stone was laid for the"custody building" of the castle. The main buildings were completed in 1672. Owing to the threat from the Turks, new fortifications for the town of Gotha were also constructed from 1663, along with the reinforcement of the Castle's fortifications. The fortifications were finished in about 1686, and fortunately their effectiveness was never put to the test. From 1772, Duke Emst II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg had the now outdated fortifications removed as part of the work on the castle gardens. By 1800 all the ramparts and ditches had been levelled.

From 1826 to 1918, Gotha was one of the two capitals of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. From this family today's British royal family is descended through Prince Albert who married England's Queen Victoria. The family changed its name to Windsor during World War I when the British were circulating atrocity stories about the German soldiers who were allegedly "cutting off the hands of babies in Belgium." Even today, the Schloß, which contains several top-rated museums and a resplendent baroque theatre, remains Gotha's cultural centre and its star attraction.

In the 18th century, an extended stay by the French philosopher Voltaire turned the court into one of the centres of the Enlightenment in Germany.

Gotha has played an important role in the German workers' movement. The German socialist party (SPD) was founded in Gotha in 1875, through the merger of two organizations: the Social Democratic Workers' Party, led by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, and the General German Workers' Association, founded by Ferdinand Lassalle. A compromise known as the Gotha Program was forged, which was strongly criticized by Karl Marx for its reformist bias.

Gotha also has been a centre of publishing. The firm Justus Perthes (now called Hermann Haack) began the publication in 1763 of the Almanach de Gotha, an authoritative directory of the world's major ruling dynasties and Europe's high nobility.

Gotha is dominated by a huge park in the center which surrounds the 17th century Schloss Friedenstein, the largest early Baroque castle and grounds in all of Germany. The triple-wing building was designed by an architect named Rudolphi and its construction required the work of 1,000 craftsmen and laborers.

In the Schlossmuseum at Gotha, there are many fine examples of medieval and renaissance art, including the famous painting called "Gothaer Liebespaar" (Gotha Lovers) which dates back to 1484 and is the oldest painting with two people in one picture. The painting is by a German artist known as "The Master of the Housebook." The museum also includes artwork by the famous Lucas Cranach, whose home still stands on one side of the town square below the Castle.

The first theater in Germany to have permanently employed actors, the Gothaer Hoftheater, was founded in 1774 by the actor Konrad Ekhof. Today a theater named after him, the Ekhof Theatre, is located in the west tower of the castle. It is the oldest baroque theater in Europe, featuring historic stage equipment which dates back to 1681.

From 1949 to 1990, Gotha was part of the German Democratic Republic.

Notable Persons

Johannes Lindemann (1550/1555-after 1633), composer, music editor and teacher
Georg Ludwig Agricola (1643-1676), composer
Christian Friedrich Witt (c1660-1716), composer
Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690-1747), composer; was Kapellmeister of the Gotha court from 1729 to 1749

 

Bach Connection

According to recent research (Andreas Glockner, 1994), J.S. Bach spent some time in Gotha in 1717. He was asked to present a musical Passion at the Palace Church of Gotha, where the kapelmeister to the Duke of Saxe-Gotha lay dying. On Good Friday, March 26, J.S. Bach subtitued for the fatally ill Christian Friedrich Witt. He received 12 tallers for this guest performance. No copies of that Passion have survived, leaving us in the dark about the exact nature of the text and the music. Parts of this early J.S. Bach oratorio are represented by the dramatic arias that he later reused in the 2nd version of the Johannes-Passion BWV 245 (which, unfortunately, is as good as never performed today). The aria titles concerned are typical of the genre and reflect the special pre-dilection of the Gotha court: "Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel," "Himmel, reiße, Welt, erbebe," and "Ach windet euch nicht so, geplagte Seelen." The circumstances of J.S. Bach's service in the city of Leipzig did not enable him to perform the passion in full on a later occasion, and so he used these numbers in another context.

It is also possible that J.S. Bach was a candidate for the kapellmeistership at the ducal court of Gotha.

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach

Date/Year

Event

Weimar (1708-1717)

Mar 26, 1717

Good Friday: guest performance of a (lost) passion at the Palace Church of Gotha

Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works: See above.

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series

Festival (Link to Website)

Artistic Director

Years

Months

Place

BCW

Thüringer Bachwochen

Christoph Drescher

2005-

Mar-Apr

Thuringia, Germany

BCW

 

Features of Interest

The main attraction in the town is the Schloss Friedenstein, the former ducal palace, built in 1643-1655. This imposing rectangular structure, with low square towers on the corners, is Germany’s oldest early Baroque palace. The Palace Museum is home to valuable historic collections of art and cultural artifacts. The palace also houses the Museum of Regional History including the historic Ekhof Theatre, the oldest preserved baroque theatre in the world.
Rathaus (Town Hall), built between 1567 and 1577 in Renaissance style, noteworthy for a richly decorated north façade.
Markt (A Market Place) (Hauptmarkt) surrounded by restored patrician houses with Baroque doorways.
Augustiner-Kloster (Augustinian Church) (Gothic, 13th century), with former abbey.\
Margarethenkirche (St Margaret’s Church) (Margarethenkirche), from the end of the 15th century.
Gotha House of Insurance History.
Gotha is host to the annual Freakstock Christian music festival.

Videos

Gotha US

Information & Links

Tourist-Information G
Hauptmarkt 2
99867 Gotha
Tel: +49-03621/222138 / Fax: +49-03621/222134
E-mail: tourist-info@gotha.de

Stadt Gotha (Official Website) [German/English]
Landkreis Gotha [German]
Cityreview: Thüringen > Gotha [German]
Gotha (Meinestadt) [German]

 

Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - January 2010)

Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
Maps of Bach Places | Videos of Bach Places | Symbols (Coats of Arms) of Bach Places | Organs in Bach Places
Places: Altenburg | Ammern | Arnstadt | Bad Berka | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bückeburg | Celle | Collmen | Dörna | Dornheim | Dresden | Eisenach | Erfurt | Gehren | Gera | Gotha | Halle | Hamburg | Heiligengrabe | Jena | Karlsbad | Kassel | Kleinzschocher | Köthen | Langewiesen | Leipzig | Lübeck | Lüneburg | Meiningen | Merseburg | Mühlhausen | Naumburg | Ohrdruf | Pomßen | Potsdam | Ronneburg | Sangerhausen | Schleiz | Stöntzsch | Störmthal | Taubach | Wechmar | Weimar | Weißenfels | Weißensee | Wiederau | Zeitz | Zerbst | Zschortau

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Last update: ýJanuary 11, 2010 ý20:20:06