Bach and Luther

8 September 2017 – 28 January 2018


For Martin Luther, music was a “glorious gift from God” which was almost as important as theology and just as suitable for praising the Lord, proclaiming his word, providing succour to the people, and contributing to their character development. Alongside his superb translation of the Bible into German, hymns in the vernacular were one of the most influential messages of the Reformation. The hymns that Luther wrote and set to music became a defining element of Protestant church music.

Johann Sebastian Bach is probably more closely associated with Lutheran church music than any other composer. Nowadays, his compositions inspired by Bible and hymnbook are regarded as unparalleled by listeners all over the world. The exhibition focuses on Bach’s Leipzig cycle of chorale cantatas, one of his most important contributions to vocal music. The main exhibits include the autograph score of the cantata O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (‘O eternity, you word of thunder’, BWV 20) and several performance parts, including Christ lag in Todesbanden (‘Christ lay in the snares of death’, BWV 4), Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (‘Now come, Saviour of the heathens’, BWV 62) and Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (‘Out of deep anguish I call to You’, BWV 38). Bach’s remarkable chorale arrangements for the organ are represented by precious first editions. Numerous listening posts transform the exhibition space into a listening studio. A magnificent Luther Bible bearing’s Bach’s name inscribed in his own hand is joined by other theological books from Bach’s library. Additional exhibits reveal biographical parallels between Bach and Luther and explain how the Reformation was celebrated in Bach’s day.

Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm


€ 8 / reduced: € 6
Under 17s: free

Guided tours
20 October, 3pm / 22 October, 11am / 19 November, 11am / 15 December, 3pm / 17 December, 11am


The exhibition is kindly supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media following a resolution by the German Bundestag, the Packard Humanities Institute  (Los Altos, California), and the foundation Chorherren St Thomae (Leipzig).


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