bike path, cycling, Frederik Hanssen, German Democratic Republic, Grassi Museum, Grieg, Hanns Eisler, Janáček, Leipzig, Lortzing, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Reger, St. Thomas Church, University Church, Wagner, Walter Ulbricht, Werner Schneider
of Johann Sebastian Bach, of course!
Leipzig and the composer have been inseparable since Bach became cantor at St. Thomas Church in 1723. Never really satisfied with his pay, his “wild bunch of irritating pupils who go around shouting themselves hoarse in the streets” were enough to drive him crazy. Nevertheless, he faithfully satisfied the requirements of his position until his death, and we are more grateful than ever to him as his name attracts well-heeled cultural tourists to our city.
If the eternal Bach cult were ever to be set aside, however, one could still experience the other golden age of music in Leipzig that followed its Baroque heyday: the mid-nineteenth century, when students from all over Europe flocked to the first music conservatory in Germany founded in 1843 by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. For the most part, however, only musicologists realize that a whole generation of composers, from Edvard Grieg to Leoš Janáček, trained here, and few realize that Gustav Mahler, Max Reger and Albert Lortzing worked in Leipzig and that Richard Wagner and Hanns Eisler were born here.
A new cultural trail through the city is about to change all of that. Starting this month, undulating metal strips in the sidewalks will lead the way between the authentic sites and memorials of the “Leipzig Music Trail.” A great idea for sure, but perhaps a little too ambitious in design as the installation of the stainless steel inlay throughout the city will cost more than 400,000 Euros. The 5km trail will start at the Neues Gewandhaus and make a wide arc through the city center until returning to Augustusplatz, where the spectacular Paulinum, which commemorates the architecture of the University Church blown up by Walter Ulbricht in 1968, is nearing completion.
The Music Trail is an entirely private initiative. Thirteen years ago, physics professor Werner Schneider noted that neither the citizens of Leipzig nor their visitors had much appreciation of the city’s rich musical heritage beyond Bach, and the foundation established in support of his cause evolved into a popular movement that succeeded in convincing the city council that a wayfinding system between classical sites was sorely needed. Despite their own agendas, painstaking diplomacy succeeded in bringing together the various museums, memorials and university departments, and now that that work is over, the opening ceremony, starting at 10:00am on 12 May, will be a real feast of joy with wind ensembles sounding from bay windows and balconies. Dancers will symbolically connect the twenty-three stations of the Music Trail, and, in the late afternoon, there will be a sing-along on Augustusplatz. Finally, on the sprawling grounds of the Grassi Museum, which houses, among other things, the second largest collection of musical instruments in Europe, the party will carry on until midnight.
Frederik Hanssen – Der Tagesspiegel