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Guide to Bach Tour
Potsdam
[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 | Maps

Description

Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and is part of the Metropolitan area of Berlin/Brandenburg. It is situated on the River Havel, some 25 km southwest of the centre of Berlin.

Potsdam has several claims to national and international notability. In Germany, it has the status Windsor has in England. It was the residence of the Prussian kings until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and unique cultural landscapes, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssouci, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-war conference between the victorious Allies, was held at another palace in the area, the Cecilienhof.

Babelsberg, in Potsdam, is one of the leading centres of European film production. The Filmstudio Babelsberg is historically significant as the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. The Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg frequently records soundtracks for domestic and foreign-based film productions.

Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germany from the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges and more than 30 research institutes in the city.

Country: Germany | State: Brandenburg | District: Urban district | Area: 187.28 km˛ | Population: 151,725 (December 2008)

History

The area around Potsdam shows occupancy since the Bronze Age and was part of Magna Germania as described by Tacitus. After the migrations Slavs moved in and Potsdam was probably founded after the 7th century as a settlement of the Heveller centred on a castle. It was first mentioned in a document in 993AD as Poztupimi, when Emperor Otto III gifted the territory to the Quedlinburg Abbey, then led by his aunt Matilda. A possible translation of the name might be beneath the oaks. By 1317 it was mentioned as a small town. It gained its town charter in 1345. In 1573 it was still a small market town of 2,000 inhabitants. After the Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648), Potsdam had lost nearly half of its population.

Potsdam's fortunes changed dramatically when it was chosen in 1660 as the hunting residence of Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg, the core of the powerful state that later became the Kingdom of Prussia. It also housed a Prussian barracks.

After the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Potsdam became a centre of European immigration. Its religious freedom attracted people from France (Huguenots), Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. The edict accelerated population growth and economic recovery.

Later, the city became a full residence of the Prussian royal family. The majestic buildings of the royal residences were built mainly during the reign of Frederick the Great. One of these is the Sanssouci Palace (French: "without cares", by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, 1744), famed for its formal gardens and Rococo interiors. Other royal residences include the Neues Palais and the Orangery.

In the 19th century the city of Potsdam was the capital of the province of Potsdam. The province encompassed the former districts of Ucker Mark, the Mark of Priegnitz, and the greater part of the Middle Mark. It was situated between Pomerania and West Prussia on the north, and the province of Saxony on the south and west (Berlin, with a small surrounding district, was an enclave within the province of Potsdam, and had its own distinct government). Towards the north west the province was bounded by the River Elbe and the Havel, and on the north east by the River Oder. About 500,000 inhabitants lived in the province which covered an area of about 20,700 square kilometers, divided into thirteen circles:

Lower Barnim

West Havelland

Upper Barnim

East Priegnitz

Teltow-Storkow

West Priegnitz

Zauch-Belzig

Ruppin

Templin

Prenzlow

East Havelland

New Angermunde

Juterbock-Lucken-walde

The towns in the province were small, the principal ones being, Brandenburg, Potsdam, Prenzlow, Spandau and Ruppin.

Berlin was the official capital of Prussia and later of the German Empire, but the court remained in Potsdam, where many government officials settled. In 1914, the Emperor Wilhelm II signed the Declaration of War in the Neues Palais. The city lost its status as a second capital in 1918, when Wilhelm II abdicated at the end of World War I.

At the start of the Third Reich in 1933 there was a ceremonial handshake between President Paul von Hindenburg and the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on March 21, 1933 in Potsdam's Garnisonkirche (Garrison Church). This symbolised a coalition of the military (Reichswehr) and Nazism. Potsdam was severely damaged in bombing raids during World War II.

The Cecilienhof Palace was the scene of the Potsdam Conference from July 17, to August 2, 1945, at which the victorious Allied leaders (Harry S. Truman; Winston Churchill and his successor, Clement Attlee; and Joseph Stalin) met to decide the future of Germany and postwar Europe in general. The conference ended with the Potsdam Agreement and the Potsdam Declaration.

The government of East Germany (formally known as the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)) tried to remove symbols of Prussian militarism. Many historic buildings, some of them badly damaged in the war, were demolished.

Potsdam, south west of Berlin, lay just outside West Berlin after the construction of the Berlin Wall. The walling off of West Berlin not only isolated Potsdam from West Berlin, but also doubled commuting times to East Berlin. The Glienicke Bridge across the Havel connected the city to West Berlin and was the scene of some Cold War exchanges of spies.

After German reunification, Potsdam became the capital of the newly re-established state of Brandenburg. There are many ideas and efforts to reconstruct the original appearance of the city, most remarkably the Potsdam City Palace and the Garrison Church.

 

Bach Connection

It can be assumed that J.S. Bach paid a short visit to Potsdam and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach while on his way to Berlin in 1741. His most famous visit took place in May 1747 where he met King Friedrich II the Great of Prussia. The meeting probably took place in the Castle (or Palace) of the city and there the King played the beginning of a fugue on harpsichord and J.S. Bach was supposed to finish it. J.S. Bach was not completely satisfied with his part and so he worked it wrote the Musical Offering (BWV 1079) on the theme proposed by the King in July 1747.

Even if the buildings, which are connected to J.S. Bach, are now destroyed, a lot of great evidence of his time is still preserved in Potsdam. One is the Palace of Friedrich the Great, called Sanssouci, which was built by G.W. Knobelsdorff in the years between 1745-1747. It was consecrated on May 1, one week before J.S. Bach's visit. So it can be assumed, that J.S. Bach met the King of Prussia here and not in the Castle.

Sanssouci is one of the main examples of German rococo, on the terrace of the garden Friedrich the Great lies buried since 1991.

See also: Berlin - Bach Connection

Source: Reisewege zu Bach - Travelling Ways Bach (Michael Imhof Verlag, 2003), p. 108

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach

Date/Year

Event

Leipzig (1741-1750)

May 7-8, 1747

Visit to Friedrich the Great in Potsdam

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

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series

Festival (Link to Website)

Artistic Director

Years

Months

Place

BCW

Bachtage Potsdam

Björn O. Wiede

2001-

Sep

Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany

BCW

 

Features of Interest

Sanssouci Palace: former palace of the Prussian royal and German imperial families.
Orangery Palace: former palace for foreign royal guests.
Neues Palais ("New Palace"): an additional palace in Sanssouci Park, built in 1769.
Charlottenhof: another palace in Sanssouci Park, by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1826).
New Garden: with two smaller palaces, one of them Cecilienhof, where the Potsdam Conference was held.
Old Town: with the Brandenburg Gate (1770, not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin), St. Nikolaikirche (1850) and Rathaus (Town Hall) (1753).
Babelsberg: a quarter east of the centre, housing the UFA: film studios

Information & Links

PT Potsdam Tourismus GmbH
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam
Tel: +49-331-275580 | Fax: +49-331-2755879
Website: www.potsdamtourismus.de

Potsdam (Official Website) [German/English]
Potsdam (Wikipedia) [various languages]
Cityreview: Brandenburg > Potsdam [German]
Potsdam (Meinestadt) [German]

 

Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - December 2009)

Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Bach Organs | Discussions of Bach Tour
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: ýDecember 30, 2009 ý20:15:45