Pop quiz: Where did Johann Sebastian Bach make his home? How about Schumann, Wagner, and Mendelssohn?
These famous classical composers all gravitated to one very special place: Leipzig—a city of 600,000 in the German state of Saxony, just 75 minutes by train from Berlin. Today, the city draws on its long history of musical inspiration with celebrations that bring the sounds of these legendary musicians to life.
After Leipzig was founded in the 12th century, its reputation grew quickly, and the city attracted many great composers like Bach and Mendelssohn throughout the centuries. One of its most renowned sons is Richard Wagner, who was born here and spent most of his childhood and teenage years in the city.
It’s easy to see what drew these composers here, starting with the picturesque city center. Walk around and you’ll pass beautiful historic arcades, peaceful courtyards, and impressive trading houses that bear witness to Leipzig’s long history as a center for trade. Many features of these buildings have been extensively restored over recent years to reflect the wealth and influence of trade through the ages.
You’ll also find a self-contained network of around 30 arcades within the inner-city area, which is unique in Germany. The best-known and most lavish arcade is the Mädler Passage, with its elegant glass skylights and Auerbachs Keller, a cellar restaurant steeped in tradition that was one of Goethe’s favorite haunts.
And just a few steps away from Auerbachs Keller is St. Thomas Church, home of St. Thomas Boys Choir and Bach’s working place for almost 30 years. It’s also the final resting place of the great composer.
The Music Trail Once you have the lay of the land, follow the Leipzig Music Trail, connecting 23 authentic places where famous composers lived and worked. Go for a stroll or ride a bike to visit spots like the oldest monument to Johann Sebastian Bach; the Schumann House; the dramatic Leipzig Opera, the third-oldest bourgeois music theater stage in Europe; and Germany’s oldest university of music and theater—the elegant, neo-Renaissance Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre.
The Festivals Leipzig has been bringing music to life for over 800 years—and summer is when the music scene really comes to life. In June, Bach lovers from all over the world come to celebrate his work with a Bach Festival. From June 12–21, 2020, more than 40 Bach choirs, societies, festivals and associations from six continents will be travelling to Leipzig. In doing so, they will be continuing a tradition of the extensive Bach family of musicians, who in the 17th and 18th centuries met once a year to play music together.
Then catch a performance of the Gewandhausorchester—one of the world’s top orchestras that was founded here in 1743. On June 26–27, 2020, the musicians perform in Rosental Park. Pack a picnic basket, blankets, and chairs to enjoy the concerts in a relaxed summer atmosphere.
And mark your calendars now for the summer of 2022, when all 13 of Richard Wagner’s operas will be performed in chronological order here—a global first happening, appropriately, in the city of Wagner’s birth.
These musical greats, unique musical ensembles, and epic events all make Leipzig into what it is…an absolute must for music lovers!