Any choir with 800 years of tradition and a director who was Johann Sebastian Bach is certainly worth celebrating. Throughout this year,Leipzig- one ofEurope’s major centers of music – is doing exactly that.
The St. Thomas Boys’ choir is Leipzig’s oldest cultural asset. Bach was its most famous choirmaster during the years he lived and worked in Leipzig from 1723 until his 1750 death. It’s one leg of THOMANA, the triad of St. Thomas Church (believing), St. Thomas Boys Choir (singing) and St. Thomas School (learning).
Enter the church for one of this year’s events, and you’ll see and hear the organ the master Bach played. Celebrations will peak in September and October/November with Jubilee Weeks.
Other musical giants also resided in Leipzig- Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy; Clara and Robert Schumann; and Richard Wagner.
Mendelssohn’s home from 1835 to 1847 is open for tour. Schumann Haus is another musical history stop for stories about Robert and Clara Schumann. The Museum of Musical Instruments is another must see for those with more than a passing interest in instrumentation. The world’s oldest intact pianoforte is among the 5,000 pieces dating from the Middle Ages to the present.
Leipzig also has significant modern political history. The city made its mark on history October 8, 1989, when a “Peaceful Revolution” occurred among 70,000 citizens who gathered in the city center to demand reforms from the East German communist regime. They said prayers for peace inside St. Nicholas Church, the city’s oldest, and filled the streets in what the beginning of a grassroots movement to re-unify Germany. Several riveting pieces of sculpture in the city center portray the people’s struggle for freedom.
Students of the Cold War find theStasi Museum of great interest. Exhibits reveal how the Stasi (secret police) of the former German Democratic Republic spied on the people. The Leipzig Forum of Contemporary History in the heart of downtown is dedicated to the history of the old communist regime. English labels are absent in both museums, but English brochures fill in some of the visual blanks.
Boutiques and stores in the city’s center draw some visitors to buy or merely survey local merchandise. One of the most interesting areas for retailing is Specks Hof, a former exhibition district that now holds small shops and cafes to augment nearby department stores and the fresh Tuesday and Friday produce array inMarket Square.
For more information about Leipzig’s celebration year, consult the German National Tourist Office at 212.661-7200 or www.germany-tourism.de. Concert and festival information are at http://www.bachfestleipzig.de and www.thomana2012.com).