Special Exhibition »Bach – Court Compositeur«

 

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!

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