By Linda de Vries
Riches galore! We have two Bach Bagatelles: Bach at the Collegium Musicum
The Bach Archive
On this date in 1729 Sebastian wrote to his former student, Christoph Gottlob Wecker: “P.S. the latest news is that the dear Lord has provided for the honorable Mr. Schott by allowing him to obtain the cantorship in Gotha. For this reason he will give his farewell speech next week since I will be assuming the leadership of his Collegium” (Bach-Dokumente I, Item 20).
Sebastian supported Carl Gotthelf Gerlach to replace Schott as organist at the New Church, so Gerlach reciprocated by abandoning his claim on directorship of the collegium. This allowed Sebastian, reports biographer Wolff, to consolidate his “firm grip on Leipzig’s principal institutions,” both the sacred and the secular.
The Collegium Musicum had been founded by students of Leipzig University in 1688, then refounded in 1702 by Georg Philipp Telemann (see March 14 post). It was a group of amateur but highly skilled group of musicians who performed at Café Zimmermann, Gottfried Zimmermann’s coffeehouse.
Aside: on April 4, 2014, Horizon Music Group will perform, as part of the Whittier Bach Festival, two secular cantatas Sebastian composed for this venue—the Coffee Cantata and the Peasant Cantata. The Chapel will be converted into a coffee house for the night. Scroll to the right of your screen to see the flyer.
Coffee came to Europe from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century, with the first coffeehouse recorded in Venice in 1645. The craze soon swept the continent. Coffeehouses were places where men of all social strata could mix and mingle, so these establishments developed a reputation for equality and advanced ideas. Business deals were made, news was exchanged, newspapers were read, political issues were discussed, ideas were exchanged, and entertainment was enjoyed.
Interior of a Coffeehouse
Café Zimmermann was located at Katarinestraße 14, then the most elegant street in Leipzig. The name of the street being taken from the old St. Catherine’s Chapel, demolished in 1544. The four-and-a-half story building had been built in about 1715, with the coffeehouse occupying two adjoining rooms.
In the winter the Café hosted indoor musical performances on Fridays between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., while summer concerts were outdoors in the coffee garden on Wednesdays from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Concerts were ordinaire and extraordinaire, the latter featuring distinguished guest artists and occurring on royal birthdays and similar occasions. There was no charge for the concerts; Zimmerman made his money on the coffee.
During this time, the middle of the 18th century, secular music began to gain popularity over church music. Although Sebastian composed some enduring secular pieces for this venue, his primary focus remained church music, with this directorship making it possible for him to draw upon greater resources—more instruments for larger orchestrations and more proficient players and singers. This made pieces such as the Pentecost Cantata (BWV 174) possible.
When Sebastian entered a more introspective phase, Gerlach finally took over the directorship of the Collegium, from 1737 to 1739. The concerts ended with Zimmermann’s death in 1741. The building was destroyed during an air raid in December of 1943, but the name lives on in a French classical music ensemble founded in 1998—Café Zimmermann.
On this date, March 20, 2010, The Bach Archive (Bach Archiv) was reopened after a complete refurbishment by German President Horst Köhler. The Archive, located in Leipzig and a part of the University, is an institution for the documentation and research of the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach and his family. It also houses a Bach Museum.
It was founded in 1950 by Werner Neumann, when Leipzig was still part of Soviet dominated East Germany. Nevertheless, there was significant cooperation with Bach experts in West Germany, such as the second edition of Bach’s complete works. Following German reunification the Archive was for a time part of a consortium of cultural groups in the former East Germany, but in 2006 it became an institute of the University of Leipzig.
In 2013 famed Bach scholar Dr. Christoph Wolff stepped down as Director of the Archive to turn over leadership to Dr. Peter Wollny, a leading Bach researcher who earned his Ph.D. at Harvard under Wolff’s tutelage.
On January 1, 2014, Sir John Eliot Gardiner (see the March 1 post) became President of the Bach Archive Foundation, whose function is to expand the international leadership role of the Archive. Since the end of Soviet domination in 1990, Bach scholarship has blossomed, and it would appear that we can look forward to a second Bach Revival.