Discover Leipzig noted that 500 composers have lived and worked in that city over the centuries, including: Johann Sebastian Bach (Cantor of St Thomas Church), Georg Philipp Telemann, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (Kapellmeister at the Gewandhaus), Clara and Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Edvard Grieg and Gustav Mahler. Others, like Joseph Joachim and Hanns Eisler, did their studies there. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was a pianist and composer of 460 pieces of music. Felix’s sister and musical advisor, Fanny lived in Leipzig and later Berlin.
Schumann House Museum. Leipzig
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) was our chief attraction. He was active in Leipzig’s musical life for most of his later adulthood. He was responsible for the services and special ceremonies at the churches of St Nicholas and St Thomas. People familiar with Bach music will recognise his creativity in Leipzig - annual cycles of choral cantatas, the St John and St Matthew Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, the Art of the Fugue and his Mass in B Minor.
But not just church music. As the city's Musical Director he had to organise secular events as well. And academically he was just as committed. He directed the Collegicum Musicum, an association of professional performers and students. So you would expect this city to pay attention to its musical hero. The Bach-Archiv was founded after WW2 by Werner Neumann. It served as a central archive for historic documents connected to the composer and a central research centre for the entire Bach family. After unification the archive became part of the Konferenz Nationaler Kultureinrichtungen, a merger of nationally significant cultural organisations. Next door is the Bach Museum, located in Bach’s own home. Both the archive and the museum join in a research complex with the magnificent adjoining building, owned back then by the goldsmith Georg Heinrich Bose.
The young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) studied at the University of Leipzig from 1765-68. I would not normally include him in a musical tour except that his poems were later set to music by some very important composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner and Mahler. So it may be important to visit the Goethe memorial in the centre of Leipzig’s Naschmarkt. Fans may also like to buy a disc that celebrates the large and important role that Goethe's work played in Franz Schubert's short life (1797–1828). Although it contains only a portion of the Schubert/Goethe song output, The Goethe Schubertiad starts with material written in Leipzig.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-47) was another brilliant German musician who made his way to Leipzig. As the Gewandhaus Kapellmeister, Mendelssohn was the man who reformed the musical life of the city and instigated the Bach renaissance in Germany.
Mendelssohn House, Leipzig
Since 1997 Leipzig has the only Mendelssohn Museum anywhere, located in the family’s flat. It has been carefully restored to what it looked like when the composer lived there so that modern visitors can see his letters, sheet music, furniture, study complete with books, his own paintings and his music salon.
Robert Schumann (1810-56) in Saxony and came to Leipzig in May 1828 to study law. The young man soon discovered that a] he wanted to play and compose Romantic music for the rest of his life and b] he wanted to marry his piano teacher’s daughter. Friedrich Wieck’s daughter Clara (1819-96) was herself a child prodigy on the piano. She was born in Leipzig and gave her first performance at the Gewandhaus, a concert hall originally built in 1781 and now the home of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. In the many concert tours that started in 1831 and continued, Clara played works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann. By 16 her reputation as a pianist was assured.
Robert Schumann wasn’t necessarily polite. By April 1834, he started A New Journal for Music where the articles were very critical. The young man loathed the popular taste for inferior composers. But it was not Schumann’s fault that Franz Brendel later became the Journal’s new editor (in 1844). Brendel allowed a viciously anti-Semitic piece by Wagner to be published, insulting the late Felix Mendelssohn, founder of the Leipzig Conservatory,
After Robert’s marriage to Clara Wieck in 1840 at the church in Schönefeld, the young couple moved into their home. Apparently there was no other building in Leipzig from which so much great music emanated and to which so many notable artists were drawn. Marriage must have suited Schumann well; during that first year, he created 150 piano lieder. The late classical style Schumann House has an interesting exhibition on the life and work of the famous musical couple. A permanent exhibition in the living quarters on the first floor is well worth seeing, as is he study. Fans will already know that regular concerts and readings are held in the carefully restored music salon.
St Thomas Church, Leipzig
Leipzig's magnificent Moorish Revival Synagogue was destroyed on Kristallnacht (November 1938) by the Nazis, but music tourists can still visit the Brody Synagogue in Keilstrasse. Or download the original music sung by the old Leipzig Synagogue Choir.