The Bach Museum presents two or three special exhibitions every year reflecting current events, anniversaries and other fascinating topics.

Find out more here about previous exhibitions.

Bach the court composer

15 February until 23 June 2019


Johann Sebastian Bach spent a third of his professional life employed by minor royalty. He served as court organist and Concertmeister at the ducal court in Weimar (1708–17) and then as Capellmeister at the princely court in Cöthen (1717–23). Even when he was cantor of St Thomas’s Church, he still received honorary titles from courts: he was appointed Capellmeister by the ducal court of Saxe-Weissenfels in 1729 and awarded the title of Court Composer by the electoral court in Dresden in 1736. Bach’s biography reflects the unique density of small royal seats in central Germany. Although in most cases politically insignificant, they fostered remarkable achievements in the arts. Well-known works such as the Brandenburg Concertos, the Hunting Cantata and the Little Organ Book are testimony to the pioneering, virtuoso compositions Bach wrote for courts. But what did the production of celebratory musical performances actually involve? Who were Bach’s employers – and what were his duties? This interactive exhibition including audio recordings presents Bach’s compositions in the context of courtly life with its rules and ceremonies. The most precious exhibits include music written in Bach’s own hand from the Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, and the aria Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn (‘Everything with God and nothing without him’), which was only discovered in 2005 by the Leipzig Bach Archive. A gallery of minor royalty, examples of tableware, and documents such as the ‘Mandate against trumpet-blowing’ provide a fascinating introduction to the courtly world. Music composed by Bach can be heard at several listening stations. And at the multimedia station, visitors can browse through more of Bach’s handwritten sheet music, find out about where he performed in Weimar and Cöthen, and even try their hand at a quiz!

Listening to Bach's students

8 April until 23 September 2018


Johann Sebastian Bach was much in demand as a teacher. Throughout his life he taught gifted young musicians the organ and other keyboard instruments as well as composition. Since Bach’s students often lived in his home, they had a close-up view of his everyday life. What can they tell us today about their teacher? Researchers at the Leipzig Bach Archive have been combing historical archives and libraries throughout Germany in search of previously unknown documents pertaining to Bach since 2002. An ongoing project sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has explored the lives of over a hundred of Bach’s private students. Their CVs, letters, applications and references tell us much about Bach’s teaching and reveal things we never knew about his life and works. The exhibition presents some of the project’s most fascinating discoveries and shows the research methods used. Bach’s private students frequently became successful composers in their own right or influenced the musical style of their day, such as composer and music theorist Johann Philipp Kirnberger (illustration). The students’ compositional skills are compared to those of their great teacher by means of several audio clips. Visitors can experience Bach’s teaching methods at an interactive display and try out a clavichord for themselves. But what do a maths doctorate and a surveying instrument used for nautical measurements have to do with Bach’s cantata Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen (‘I will gladly carry the Cross’)? These and many other questions are answered on a fascinating journey of discovery through the exhibition.

Bach and Luther

8 September 2017 until 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.


Religious Worlds

27 January until 25 June 2017


Following the arrival of the Reformation in Leipzig in 1539, the Protestant Lutheran faith formed the basis for religious and social coexistence. However, being a thriving city of commerce, people still came to Leipzig from all over Europe and beyond who had a variety of confessions and religions. The city and the Protestant church authorities kept a strict eye on ›unpleasant‹ forms of religious expression. Nevertheless, in around 1700, the extensive religious uniformity was gradually relaxed under Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, partly in support of political and economic interests.

This special exhibition presents the religious situation in Leipzig in Bach’s day from different perspectives. Apart from the predominant Protestant Lutheran Church, there was a Protestant Reformed community in Leipzig from 1701 while a Catholic community was founded there in 1710. They were joined by a Greek Orthodox community in 1743. Moreover, Jewish merchants were permitted to practise their religion during the fairs, albeit with some restrictions. The exhibition also examines the extent to which the Protestant Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach encountered other confessions. The most precious exhibits include parts from the Missa in B minor, BWV 232 (the Kyrie and Gloria of the subsequent Mass in B minor), which Bach dedicated to the Catholic elector. The many other exhibits, which include documents on the Catholic and Protestant Reformed communities, an encyclopaedia of the Koran compiled in Leipzig, and the description of a secret Jewish wedding, testify to the protracted and difficult process of fostering tolerance for and between different religious worlds.

The exhibition is supported by: Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien aufgrund eines Beschlusses des Deutschen Bundestages as well as by Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos/Kalifornien and Stiftung Chorherren St. Thomae, Leipzig.

»I owe simply everything to J. S. Bach!« – Bach and Reger

4 March until 23 October 2016


Max Reger was full of admiration for Johann Sebastian Bach. »Our modern harmony contains nothing so complex that it wouldn’t have been foreseen by good old Bach,« he declared. To Reger, the »secrets of harmony« in Bach’s writing were just as fascinating as his fugue technique, which he regarded as the basis of all composition: »For me, Sebastian Bach is the be-all and end-all of music; true progress lies and resides in him alone.« This devotion prompted Max Reger in his role as composer, arranger and conductor to study Bach’s works intensively. Bach and Reger – two composers who in many ways were far ahead of their time – will be the focus of not just the 2016 Leipzig Bach Festival but also a special exhibition in the Bach Museum marking the centenary of Max Reger’s death. Organized by the Leipzig Bach Museum in conjunction with the Max Reger Institute Karlsruhe, the exhibits will include precious manuscripts, prints, letters, concert programmes and photographs from the Max Reger Institute’s collection.

Women in Bach’s day

08 May until 11 October 2015


To mark Leipzig’s millennium, the Bach Museum is turning its attention to a selection of women who lived here in Bach’s era. The exhibition will show the important part played by women in cultural and economic life in Baroque Leipzig. It will shed light on areas of activity and destinies of famous women such as poet Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, who apart from running a famous salon also wrote the librettos for nine of Bach’s cantatas, and popular actress and theatre director Friederica Carolina Neuber, who enjoyed great success in Leipzig, yet ended up destitute. In addition, the exhibition will address other, less famous women, such as unmarried mothers and their difficult living conditions, as well as wealthy widows who set up generous foundations to support public institutions and the needy. And of course, it couldn’t possibly overlook Anna Magdalena Bach (the wife of Johann Sebastian Bach) and other cantors’ wives. Among the exhibits are a composition by Luise Adelgunde Victorie Gottsched (the wife of the famous philosopher of the Enlightenment), a mocking poem by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler pillorying the dominant role of the »male of the species«, and other documents and graphics which have much to tell us about the lives of women.

Bach and the Leipzig University

26 September 2014 until 15 February 2015


Ever since its foundation in 1409, the University of Leipzig had been closely associated with St Thomas’s School, known for its rigorous academic standards. Moreover, many of the teachers at the school were also professors who taught at the university. When Johann Sebastian Bach was appointed cantor of St Thomas’s Church, he also shouldered duties at St Paul’s University Church, being responsible for the music on high feast days as well as for a ceremony held every three months at the university. In addition, he took on commissions, such as composing the funeral music for Saxon Electress Christiane Eberhardine of Saxony after her death in 1727. Students assisted Bach’s musical performances both inside and outside the academic sphere. Moreover, since he wrote assessments of the boys when they graduated from St Thomas’s School, he had an influence on who received the coveted university scholarships. The exhibition focuses on the twenty-seven years Bach spent working in the vicinity of the University of Leipzig.

»Music must touch the heart«. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach at 300

07 March – 20 July 2014


In the second half of the eighteenth century, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was actually better known than his now world-famous father, Johann Sebastian. Born in Weimar on 8 March 1714, he quickly put the baroque sounds of his youth behind him and championed a new movement characterized by more individual forms of expression. Becoming the foremost composer in the age of the Empfindsamer Stil (‘sensitive style’), he was regarded as a shining example by composers such as Mozart and Haydn.

Only a handful of C. P. E. Bach’s compositions have been preserved from his early creative phase in Leipzig and Frankfurt (Oder), where he gained his first important musical experience. Indeed, the composer himself later destroyed many of his own early works. Even so, some of his earliest surviving manuscripts are on display in the exhibition, including a cantata only discovered in Mügeln (about 60km east of Leipzig) in 2010 and an exercise book owned when he was thirteen and a pupil at St. Thomas’s School. In addition, the exhibition highlights the fact that although Carl Philipp Emanuel was very familiar with his father’s works, he nevertheless pursued a very different path. Starting in 1738, he spent three decades as a harpsichordist at the court of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia (later Frederick the Great) in Berlin and Potsdam. Exhibits from this period include compositions for the harpsichord and his first major vocal work, the Magnificat. Bach found European fame during his time as director of music at Hamburg thanks to for instance his double chorus Heilig (‘Holy, Holy, Holy’) and several piano sonatas. Letters and entries in friendship books testify to his many acquaintances with artists, intellectuals and business partners. In the opinion of one of his former fellow students, Bach was distinguished »by naturalness, depth and thoughtfulness« but was »nevertheless amusing company« (Jacob von Stählin, 1784).

Bach Nuremberg-style. The Scholz Collection

 19 September 2013 – 9 February 2014


Leipzig Bach Archive contains the largest known private collection of eighteenth-century keyboard music. It includes more than 250 works by J. S. Bach and 70 pieces by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach as well as music by other composers. This unique collection amassed by Leonhard Scholz (1720–98), an organist and prosperous spice merchant from Nuremberg, had been shown to the public for the first time. But who was Leonhard Scholz? How did he know so many of Bach’s compositions? And why did he come up with such unusual arrangements of them? The exhibition addressed key aspects of Scholz’s collection and shed light on his world. His arrangements are thought to have been necessitated by the limitations of the city’s church organs. Moreover, council records report that Scholz, a highly respectable citizen, suffered domestic problems for many years and had his wife and daughter incarcerated in a prison tower on separate occasions owing to their lewd behaviour. Was this perhaps one of the reasons for his unbridled passion for collecting, encompassing not just sheet music but many other items such as musical instruments? The exhibition included a replica of a bowed clavier once owned by Scholz – a most unusual instrument in which pressing keys on a keyboard caused strings to be bowed by moving wheels.


The exhibition was supported by the Packard Humanities Institute (Los Altos, California) and the Society of Friends of the Leipzig Bach Archive

Love. Power. Passion. The Leipzig Baroque opera

15 March – 25 August 2013


The curtain was first raised on the Leipzig Opera in May 1693. At last, opera became a permanent fixture in Leipzig's musical life. The first civic music theatre in Central Germany, it attracted visitors from all over Europe, including princes, nobles and numerous merchants. Well-known composers such as Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann David Heinichen performed their operas here. According to contemporary accounts, the Leipzig Opera was every bit as good as the famous Gänsemarkt Opera in Hamburg.
However, those days of operatic glory lasted only until 1720, as love, power and passion not only drove the events on the stage, but also the lives of the competing organizers. They stole one another's costume and even destroyed the stage. The fact that despite such adverse conditions and overwhelming debts such excellent opera was performed can only be explained by the enthusiasm and dedication of the players.


The exhibition was kindly supported by ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, the Packard Humanities Institute (Los Altos, California) and the Society of Friends of the Leipzig Bach Archive.

Mr Bach's Dreams

21 September 2012 – 27 January 2013

On the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Thomanerchor, the Bach Museum showed sketches, comic strips and a short animated film by the graphic artist and animator, André Martini.
With the aid of illustrations and animated films, the exhibition took a journey to Baroque Leipzig. It took a humorous look at the adversities and everyday problems which plagued Bach’s life and that of his Thomaner choristers. The astonishing stories and entertaining events are based on thoroughly researched, historical fact.

André Martini studied at Burg Giebichenstein, Halle. Since 2009 he has been working on a project about J. S. Bach.


The exhibition was kindly supported by the Society of Friends of the Leipzig Bach Archive.



Bach · Bible · Hymn book

9 May – 29 July 2012

Bach’s estate names 52 theological works in 81 volumes from the composer’s library. They include a Luther Bible published by Abraham Calov. This imposing, three-volume work, which is today in private American ownership, is one of the few known personal copies belonging to Bach. Numerous handwritten entries testify to his study of the Bible. This central exhibit was surrounded by other bibles and hymn books which provided an insight into the liturgical environment in Bach's time.


Kindly supported by the Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, »Luther 2017« and AON.


St. Thomas Choir and its network

16 March – 22 July 2012


The highlight of this year’s Leipzig’s music calendar was the celebrations of the 800th anniversary of St. Thomas Choir. One of Germany’s oldest boys’ choirs, it enjoys a prestigious reputation throughout the world and has a fascinating history. In an exhibition entitled »The St. Thomas Choir Network«, the Bach Museum in Leipzig examined the lives of the choristers and their most famous cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach. The network was based on both prevailing structures and Bach’s wide-ranging contacts, creativity and organizational skills. Numerous sources from this period revealed the choirboys’ varied duties, strict schedule and outstanding musical training – and visitors to the exhibition found out how all these challenges were mastered. It included exhibits documenting not just the boys’ musical activities but also everyday life at St. Thomas School. In addition, the exhibition dwelled on conflicts and other events which drove Bach to fury, and explores what became of some of the choir’s erstwhile members.


Kindly supported by the Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien und »Luther 2017«

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. The Portrait Collection

2 September – 1 December 2011


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, one of the most admired musicians of his age, assembled an important collection of musician portraits in the course of his life. The collection, which contained around 400 pictures, offers an extraordinary view of his knowledge of musical and cultural history. Its scope is enormous, and ranges from contemporary composers, virtuosi and singers, through music theorists, scientists and philosophers, back to figures of music history and mythology. Members of the Bach family are represented, alongside Bach's own friends and colleagues. The collection made a vital impact on Bach's contemporaries. As the first of its kind in Germany it was particularly valued, and it inspired other music-lovers to build their own portrait collections. Long considered to have been lost, it was reconstructed in connection with the C. P. E. Bach Complete Works edition. This exhibition brought together and presented in public for the first time some of the most important portraits in this remarkable collection.


You will find the exhibition catalogue (German/English) in our shop.

Civic pride and artistic splendour. 300th anniversary of the Bose House

15 April – 31 July 2011


The 300-year-old Bose House, which is among Leipzig’s the most beautiful town houses, has seen many different inhabitants coming and going. In 1711 Georg Heinrich Bose, an affluent merchant and the owner of a manufacture for gold and silver products, moved into the house. Later he became the neighbour of J. S. Bach. Today the comfortable baroque building hosts the Bach Archive Leipzig and the Bach Museum. Throughout the centuries the house in close proximity to St. Thomas Church has been subject of numerous constructional changes, which were also being documented in this exhibition. However the focus lied on the people who lived at the Bose House. Who were the people that lived here? Which lifestyle did they have? What was important to them? The exhibition presented insights from the everyday lives of art lovers, merchants and collectors of paintings and musical instruments. In addition to that, the Bose House also hosted various publishing houses, public houses and was the venue of various troupes presenting light entertainment. A glimpse on the early history of the area around St. Thomas Square was also included, as 7,500 year-old findings proved that people already had settled here in the Neolithic Age.


You will find the exhibition catalogue (German/English) in our shop.

»Bach, Brooks, Wagtails!«

18 December 2010 ─ 21 March 2011


Can we pick the Bach flower or catch the the Bachfisch (fish in a brook)? What if Bach had disguised himself as Bacchus, and how fast is the Bachschildkröte (pond turtle)? About fifty children and youngsters from the Leipzig KINDER-ATELIER (children's studio) have approached the topic of Johann Sebastian Bach in a number of different ways and created a series of graphic art full of wit, irony and the enjoyment of wordplay. In addition to these works in small format there are six large busts of the composer, constructed from a varitey of materials. Made of wire, wood, porous concrete, or plastic bottles, these sculptures are not just visual objects but serve a number of playful functions: as listening stations, carriers of messages, or conundrums.


This special exhibition was prepared in collaboration with the KINDER-ATELIER / KAOS, Trägerverein Kindervereinigung Leipzig e.V.

»The Highly Gifted, Peculiar Favorite of His Father« – Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

10 September – 5 December 2010


Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the oldest son of the great Thomascantor, counts among the rather mysterious figures in music history. To this day his life and works have not been adequately researched nor is his music easily accessible. On the occasion of his 300th anniversary this exhibition attempted to throw some light on this composer, who once was characterized as »the most thorough organ virtuoso, greatest composer of fugues, and most profound music scholar«.


You will find the exhibition catalogue (German/English) in our shop.

»Masterpieces on a weekly basis« – Bach's start in Leipzig

20 March – 22 August 2010


Because he wanted to be able to perform a »well-regulated church music, to the Glory of God«, Bach decided in 1708 to leave Mühlhausen and take up a position at the court of Weimar. But neither there nor later in Cöthen was he able to dedicate himself to this goal exclusively. Only when he took over the cantorate of St. Thomas’s in Leipzig in 1723 was he able to make church music the focus of his professional life. With an impressive measure of selfdiscipline he spent the next four years composing a new cantata for the Sunday services almost every week. In addition he wrote two large-scale passion oratorios and a number of magnificent liturgical works – a repertoire that in its artistic substance and demanding virtuosity was without precedent in Leipzig.

The first special exhibition in the re-opened Bach-Museum Leipzig gave an impression of how Bach managed his enormous workload, which strategies he used, who supported him in accomplishing this exacting project, and how his church music was received by his contemporaries.


This special exhibition was built with the help of the Packard Humanities Institute (Los Altos, California).


You will find the exhibition catalogue (German/English) in our shop.