Background Information
Performer Bios

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Additional Information

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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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 | Maps


Hamburg is the 2nd-largest city in Germany (after Berlin) and the seventh-largest city in the European Union. The city is home to approximately 1.8 million people, while the Hamburg Metropolitan Region (including parts of the neighboring Federal States of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein) covers 18,100 km˛ with more than 4.3 million inhabitants. The port of Hamburg is the 2nd-largest port in Europe (after that of Rotterdam), and the 9th-largest in the world.

Hamburg's official name is the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg (German: Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg). It makes reference to Hamburg's history as a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, and also to the fact that Hamburg is a city-state and one of the 16 States of Germany.

Hamburg is a major transportation hub in Northern Germany. It has become a media and industrial center, with factories such as Airbus, Blohm + Voss and Aurubis. The radio and television broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk and publishers such as Gruner + Jahr and Spiegel-Verlag represent the important media industry in Hamburg. In total there are more than 120,000 enterprises. The city is a major tourist destination both for domestic and overseas visitors, receiving about 7.4 million overnight stays in 2007.

Country: Germany | Area: 755.264 km˛ | Population: 1,775,300 (March 2009)


The city takes its name from the first permanent building on the site, a castle ordered built by Emperor Charlemagne in 808 AD. The castle was built on rocky ground in a marsh between the River Alster and the River Elbe as a defence against Slavic incursion. The castle was named Hammaburg, where burg means castle. The Hamma element remains uncertain, as does the location of this castle.

In 834, Hamburg was designated the seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric, whose first bishop, Ansgar, became known as the Apostle of the North. Two years later, Hamburg was united with Bremen as the bishopric of Hamburg-Bremen. In 1529, the city embraced Lutheranism, and Hamburg subsequently received Protestant refugees from the Netherlands and France and, in the 17th century, Sephardi Jews from Portugal.

Hamburg was destroyed and occupied several times. In 845, a fleet of 600 Viking ships came up the River Elbe and destroyed Hamburg, at that time a town of around 500 inhabitants. In 1030, the city was burned down by King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland. Valdemar II of Denmark raided and occupied Hamburg in 1201 and in 1214. The Black Death killed at least 60% of Hamburg's population in 1350. Hamburg had several great fires, the most notable ones in 1284 and 1842. In 1842, about a quarter of the inner city was destroyed in the "Great Fire". This fire started on the night of the 4 May, 1842 and was extinguished on May 8. It destroyed three churches, the town hall, and many other buildings, killed 51 people, and left an estimated 20,000 homeless. Reconstruction took more than 40 years.

The charter in 1189 by Frederick I "Barbarossa" granted Hamburg the status of an Imperial Free City and tax-free access up the Lower Elbe into the North Sea. In 1265, a putative forged letter was presented to or by the Rath of Hamburg. This charter, along with Hamburg's proximity to the main trade routes of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, quickly made it a major port in Northern Europe. Its trade alliance with Lübeck in 1241 marks the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities. On November 8, 1266 a contract between Henry III and Hamburg's traders allowed them to establish a hanse in London. This was the first time in history the word hanse was mentioned for the trading guild Hanseatic League. The first description of civil, criminal and procedural law for a city in Germany in German language, the Ordeelbook (Ordeel: sentence) was written by the solicitor of the senate Jordan von Boitzenburg in 1270. On August 10, 1410 civil commotion caused a compromise (German:Rezeß, literally meaning: withdrawal). It is considered the first constitution of Hamburg.

At the unwinding of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Free Imperial City of Hamburg was not mediatised but became a sovereign state officially titled Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Hamburg was briefly annexed by Napoleon I to the First French Empire (1810-1814). Russian forces under General Bennigsen finally freed the city in 1814. Hamburg reassumed its pre-1811 status as city-state in 1814. The Vienna Congress of 1815 confirmed Hamburg's independence and it became one of 39 sovereign states of the German Confederation (1815-1866).

In 1860, the state of Hamburg established a republican constitution. Hamburg became a city-state in the North German Confederation (1866-1871), the German Empire (1871-1918) and during the period of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). Hamburg experienced its fastest growth during the second half of the 19th century, when its population more than quadrupled to 800,000 as the growth of the city's Atlantic trade helped make it Europe's third-largest port. With Albert Ballin as its director, the Hamburg-America Line became the world's largest transatlantic shipping company at the turn of the century. Hamburg was also home to shipping companies to South America, Africa, India and East Asia. Hamburg was the departure port for most Germans and Eastern Europeans to emigrate to the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It became home to trading communities from all over the world.

In Nazi Germany Hamburg was a Gau from 1934 until 1945. During World War II Hamburg suffered a series of air raids, which killed 42,000 civilians and devastated much of the inhabited city as well as harbour areas. At least 55,000 people were murdered in the Neuengamme Nazi concentration camp within the city.

Hamburg surrendered without a fight to British Forces on May 3, 1945. After World War II, Hamburg was in the British Zone of Occupation and became a state of the then still West German Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. On February 16, 1962 the North Sea flood of that year caused the Elbe to rise to an all-time high, inundating one-fifth of Hamburg and killing more than 300 people.

The inner German border - only 50 km east of Hamburg - separated the city from most of its hinterland and further reduced Hamburg's global trade. After German reunification in 1990, and the accession of some Eastern European and Baltic States into the EU in 2004, Hamburg Harbour and Hamburg have ambitions for regaining their positions as the region's largest deep-sea port for container shipping and its major commercial and trading centre.


Bach Connection

Hamburg is a port in north Germany and a major city in the Hanseatic league. It developed as an important trading centre during the 17th century, and in 1678 it became an important musical centre, too, with the opening in the Gänsemarkt of the first, and for a long time the most important, public opera house in Germany.

According to the Obituary, J.S. Bach visited Hamburg a number of times during the period he spent at Lüneburg (1700-1702) in order to hear the famous organist Johann Adam Reincken at the Catharinenkirche; whether he also attended the opera is not known. He may have revisited the city in 1706 on his way back to Arnstadt from Lübeck.

The the next certain report we have oJ.S. Bach's presence in Hamburg comes in November 1720, when, a few months after the death of his wife Maria Barbara Bach in Köthen, he entered his candidature for the vacant post of organist at the Jacobikirche. He spent two or three days in the city, playing on the fine church organs there and astonishing the aged and revered J.A. Reincken with his improvisation on the chorale An Wasserflussen Babylon. During his visit several of his Cantatas, included BWV 21, were also performed.

The customary formal Probe for the Jacobikirche post was fixed for November 28, but by then J.S. Bach had returned to Köthen and three of the other seven candidates had also withdrawn from the competition. The reason for this is not far to seek. It had long been the custom at the Jacobikirche for the appointee to make a substantial contribution to the church coffers, and in effect - other things being more or less equalthe post would have gone to the highest bidder. In this case, however, things were not more or less equal, since J.S. Bach was by far the most able and distinguished of the eight original candidates. Efforts were therefore made to persuade him to accept the post, but he chose not to, and one may question whether he really had any serious intention of relinquishing his post of Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold at Köthen to officiate again at a church organ - even at the four-manual Schnitger organ of the Jacobikirche. The incident was not forgotten in Hamburg, however, and Johann Mattheson (Der musicalische Patriot (Hamburg, 1728), 316) recalled how 'the son of a wealthy tradesman [Johann Joachim Heitmann, d. 1727], who could prelude better with thaler than with his fingers… was given the post', and how the pastor Erdmann Neumeister, 'who had not consented to the simony… ended his sermon… like this: He was quite certain that if one of the angels at Bethlehem had come down from heaven and played divinely to become organist at St J, but had no money, he might just as well flyaway again.'

This was J.S. Bach's last visit to Hamburg, but the city's association with the Bach family was renewed after his death. In March-April 1768, J.S. Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, aged 54, the most famous keyboard player and teacher in Europe of his time, assumed a new position of director musices in Hamburg. His duties there were similar to those of his father in Leipzig: to act as Kantor of the Johanneum (the Lateinschule) and director of music in five principal churches. He served there the last 20 years of his life his death in 1788.

Hamburg musical ensembles specializing in perfroming J.S. Bach's works:
Hamburger Bach-Orchester (Chamber Orchestra)
Hamburger Barockorchester (Period-Instrument Orchestra)
Carl-Philipp-Emanuel-Bach-Chor Hamburg (Choir)
Kantorei St. Jacobi Hamburg (KSJ) (Choir)
Hamburger Kammerorchester (Chamber Orchestra)
Sankt-Michaelis-Chor, Hamburg (Choir)
Chor St. Michaelis Hamburg (CSMH) (Choir)
Hamburger Knabenchor St. Nikolai (Boys' Choir)
Hamburger Solisten (Chamber Orchestra)
Hamburger Symphoniker (Symphony Orchestra)


Events in Life History of J.S. Bach



Lüneburg & Weimar (1700-1703)


Frequent visits to Johann Adam Reincken in Hamburg

Köthen (1717-1723)

Nov 1720

Visit to Hamburg; offer of organist post at Jakobikirche declined

Posthumous Years (1750-1800)

Dec 14, 1788

Death of son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (age 74) in Hamburg

Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works: None.






1720 [Köthen]


Nov, mid-23, 1720



Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis


Bach Festivals & Cantata Series

Festival (Link to Website)

Artistic Director





Bachfest Hamburg


Hamburg, Germany


Hamburger Bach-Wochen

Christoph Schoener



Hamburg, Germany



Features of Interest

Hauptkirche St. Petri (St. Peter's Church): Built: 1195; re-built: 1418; fired: 1842. Gothic-style building
Hauptkirche St. Jacobi (Jakobikirche, St. Jacobi Church): Built: 1255; re-built: 1963
Hauptkirche St. Katharinen (Catharinenkirche , St. Catherine's Church): Built: 1256; re-build: 1500's
Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Michel, St. Michaelis Church): Built: 1647; fired: 1750
Hauptkirche St. Nikolai (St. Nikolai Church): Built: 1874; fired: 1943. World's tallest building from 1874 to 1876; ruins since 1940's
Kirchengemeinde St. Marien (St Mary's Church): Built: 1960
Kontorhäuser: Counting House Building
Hamburger Kunsthalle: Fine Arts Museum
Museun fur Kunst und Gewerbe: Museum of Decorative Arts
Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte: Historical Museum


Information & Links

Hamburg (Official Website) [various languages]
Hamburg Tourism [various languages]
Hamburg-Web [German]
Hamburg (Wikipedia) [various languages]
Cityreview: Hamburg [German]
City Panoramas: Hamburg
Hamburg (Meinestadt) [German]
Bildarchiv Hamburg [German]
Bildagentur Hamburg [German]
Landesmedienzentrum Hamburg [German]
Hamburgisches Architekturarchiv [German]
Hamburg travel guide (Wikitravel)
Hamburg Travel Information and Travel Guide - Germany (Lonely Planet)


Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - December 2009)

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Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
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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 2, 2010 ý10:16:45