This year it was Bach’s festival of hearts. On the one hand, because after two years of the crown pandemic, Leipzig was able to host a festival of full presence again, and on the other because 20 choirs from around the world enriched the festival with their interpretations of the Bach Cantata under the slogan “Bach – We are family”.
A place of pilgrimage for Bach fans: his tomb in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche
A standing ovation and applause crowned the Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera and the Swiss Chamber Orchestra “I Barocchisti”, conducted by Diego Fasolis, who celebrated a varied and sophisticated Mass in B minor at Thomaskirche in Leipzig. This is one of the most important works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The manuscript from 1748/49 is UNECO’s worldwide documentary heritage.
Bach’s great family is singing
This year, with 64,000 visitors, the Bach Festival received fewer visitors than before the Corona crisis, but they came from different regions of the world. “We invited people to participate in many formats, so we hit the nail on the head,” Bachfest director Michael Maul told DW. With visitors from 51 countries, from the USA to Saudi Arabia, Japan and India, the Bach Festival was more colorful than ever and has earned its reputation as the most international classical music festival in Germany in terms of audience.
Not only the concerts of stars, but also concerts of international choirs aroused great interest. “In fact, the spark of ‘Bach – We Are Family’, we all belong to each other, we listen to each other and get inspired, we jump,” says Michael Maul. A standing ovation was also held at the “Sociedad de Bach” concert from Paraguay. “And it was touching to see the Japanese from Yamaguchi sing difficult German lyrics simply in” la la la “.”
The project “We Are Family Choir”, led by Ton Koopman, with 100 singers from all over the world, was also very popular.
Living Bach in a choir project
The final “Family Concert” in Thomaskirche was one of the emotional moments for the people involved and clearly moved some to tears. “Four days of testing with people of all nations, it was crazy, it was the real Bach,” said one of the choir members. “I came from South Africa to be close to Bach,” said another singer, adding that it was a dream come true for him: “Bach’s music unites the world, I am very moved to be here in Leipzig.”
Conductor Ton Koopmann praised the international participants of “We Are Family Choir”
Conductor and harpsichordist Ton Koopman is president of the Bach Archive, which organizes the annual Bach Festival in Leipzig. The choir sang well and showed all their love for Bach, DW said. “Of course I know Bach is a big name all over the world, but it’s nice to see that some people really wanted to be there and only came to this concert. It was an unforgettable experience”.
Mateusz’s energetic passion
The new Thomaskantor Andreas Reize conducted Bach’s Matthäus-Passion from Thomanerchor and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin to the full venue. The extensive composition is one of the most frequently performed choral pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach in the world. The concert is available as video on demand on the YouTube channel “DW Classical Music”, as is the acclaimed performance of St. John, sung and played by the JSBach St. Gallen under the baton of Rudolf Lutz.
Thomanerchor spread over the entire organ gallery for the Passion according to Mateusz Johann Sebastian Bach for two choirs
For Andreas Reize, St. Matthew has a special emotional depth compared to the Passion of St. DW. “On the other hand, Peter is a chick to me, even in the way he talks. You can feel people with their sharp edges, and Bach has captured that musically in an amazing way. “
“Passion according to St. “Matthew” is already an art in terms of size that will take him for the rest of his life, says Reize. “Work is so fascinating that I have to find my way to where I really want every time.” At the Bach Festival, Reize led the passion at a fast pace, which did not impress all users of the video stream. In the Thomaskirche, on the other hand, there was a lot of applause.
Ancestors and descendants of Bach
The slogan “Bach – We Are Family” this year referred not only to the global community of Bach fans, but also to the ancestors and descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach and his role models.
The Monteverdi Choir with the ensemble sings under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner
The baroque composer Johann Hermann Schein was also one of Bach’s musical role models. His motet “Because Jakob is done” charmed the audience with emotional moments in the concert “Musicalische Exequien”; performed by the renowned Monteverdi Choir conducted by one of the most famous early music specialists, John Eliot Gardiner. “You know where Bach got it from,” the audience remarked spontaneously
Perspectives of the Bach Festival 2023
This year, the Bach Festival in Leipzig celebrated the 300th anniversary of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier with András Schiff and Angela Hewitt. Next year will be the 300th anniversary of Bach’s appointment as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. “It is definitely the most important Bach anniversary of this century,” says Michael Maul. Under the slogan “Bach For Future”, the main emphasis will be on the cantatas from his first year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, which Michael Maul would like to perform weekly from June 2023, as in Bach’s time, in the services of Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche.
“Bach For Future” is also to give young professional bands the opportunity to present their new interpretations of famous songs. The continuation of the “Bach – We Are Family” project is planned for 2024. Then another 30 international choirs that could not be there this year are invited. “We have Bach friends all over the world, but always in small groups,” says Michael Maul. That is why it wants to create an even better network across borders. “The audience is heterogeneous in terms of countries, but we all agree on the great music of Johann Sebastian Bach.”