Leipzig – Part 2

I awoke to excellent news from my newly college-bound sister – CONGRATS, J! – and snow. We spent the morning reading scenes from Itamar Moses’s play, Bach at Leipzig. The play follows 5 or 6 organists, basically all named Johann or Georg, vying for the new position of cantor at Thomaskirche, as Johann Kuhnau has passed away mid-playing. They all are trying to foil each other’s success, even as Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Bach step on the scene. The whole thing is very comical and brilliantly written. I highly recommend it, though I suppose we got much more out of it from already knowing the historical background. There’s one scene in which Fasch describes what a fugue is to his wife that is particularly beautiful, and there’s even a speaking fugue. One organist starts speaking and slowly but surely, each one starts his own monologue until all 6 have entered and created their own speaking ricercar. So cool to perform.

In the afternoon, we visited Felix Mendelssohn’s house. As I wrote before, he was essential for the revival of Bach’s music and the second performance of the St. Michael’s Passion, 100 years after its first performance. He also had the statue of Bach built outside of Thomaskirche.

The first floor of the exhibit had artifacts from Mendelssohn’s time, a timeline of his life and years in Leipzig, and a conducting room. My favorite artifact was a “keyed” trumpet, which Mendelssohn thought was vile: “Like a pretty woman with a beard or a man with a bosom.” On the timeline, I learned that Mendelssohn actually studied with Goethe – everything connects in this course! And the conducting room was awesome. Long, pixelated poles labeled with different instrument names were arranged geometrically on the floor and would light up with different patterns as instruments entered pieces that you conducted. The music was displayed on a screen with a sensor, so you could pick up a conductor’s baton and speed up or slow down the music – and the displays – with a wave of your hand! Very neat.

Upstairs were restored rooms of the house itself. Like Goethe’s house, the rooms had lots of bright colors and ornate chandeliers. As Mendelssohn’s composition teacher, Zelter, was very fond of Bach, Mendelssohn naturally gained a deep love for Bach’s music. In his study is a bust of Bach and of Goethe, in fact. Felix was also a talented painter, and there was a room full of his detailed works of the Swiss Alps.

The top floor was a new exhibit dedicated to Mendelssohn’s sister, Fanny, an extraordinary composer in her own right. Her mother Lea said that from a young age, Fanny clearly exhibited “Bach fugue fingers.” (Bach’s harpsichord concerto no. 1 in D minor would eventually become one of her go-to pieces to perform.) She wrote a 12-part piece, one part for every month, to sprinkle the joy of music all year round. Her husband Wilhelm received the piece as a birthday present, and because he was an artist, he ended up drawing little pictures for each part. They’re displayed on different colored pastel papers, and just fun to stare at. Towards the end of her life, she took a long trip through Italy, which was enjoyable to read about. She noted, “It seems to me that in this country one is constantly either enchanted or appalled.” Despite the latter, she loved Rome for its sun (amen, sister) and the special treatment she got for being Felix’s sister. She did gripe that it forced her to be “damned agreeable,” but she also admitted the “rasping” (flirting, a term the Mendelssohn kids made up – what a fun fact!) she received was appreciated. Throughout this time and her whole life, really, she wrote countless letters to friends and family, which I totally related to. I hope she received more responses than I do from my college and high school friends.

During the evening, one of my classmates and I attended some of the Advent music concert at Nikolaikirche, Bach’s secondary church. The music was solid, not spectacular. Luckily, we got to hear two recognizable songs: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and Gabriel’s Message. We also heard a cantata by Bach, which we sang along to, with difficulty. They actually got Bach’s death year incorrect in the program (1759 instead of 1750) and I felt unreasonably proud of myself for catching that. The choir did some excellent a capella verses and the church was stunning, consisting of massive pastel pink, light green, and white pillars. While it was a worthwhile visit, I am sure the Christmas Oratorio at Thomaskirche will blow it out of the water tomorrow.


December 16, 2017 at 2:34 pm

You’re going to have to give me a massive tutorial when you arrive back home.
Love from Doc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leipzig - Part 1

December 15, 2017

Verified by MonsterInsights