"He must be here!" - Leipzig Bachfest, June 2014

Jun 14, 2014

"He must be here!" - Leipzig Bachfest, June 2014

Saturday June 14, 2014
Julia Wedman, violin
Tafelmusik is in Leipzig!!! It is the first time the orchestra has played here and it is truly a dream come true. I think that Bach is the composer that is closest to the orchestra’s heart, and it seems especially fitting that we end this season (Jeanne’s last as full-time music director) here in Bach’s city.
We are the 2014 orchestra in residence at the Leipzig Bach Festival and we have already had so many thrilling moments that it is hard to capture all of them in words.  Our first concert opened the festival last night at St. Thomas Church, where Johann Sebastian Bach worked from 1723 until his death in 1750. In addition to his duties at St. Thomas and Leipzig’s other main churches (including the St. Nicholas Church where we will play our other concerts), Bach taught at the choir school connected to the church and his family lived in an apartment in the school. There is a plaque outside the church saying that the St. Thomas Boys choir (our collaborators this week) was founded in 1212 – it was old even before Bach came on the scene! 

Julia Wedman walking in St. Thomas Church.  Photo by Joseph Tan.
Last night’s concert opened (of course!) with an organ solo – Bach’s Fugue based on the Magnificat*, followed by speeches by the mayor of the city and Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the president of the Bach Archive (the organizers of the festival). As we sat up in the huge choir loft above the church’s main entrance, I couldn’t help but wonder how many hours Bach also spent up there waiting to play his music. We have all been having “Bach moments” since we arrived. It is an incredible feeling to walk in his footsteps here in Leipzig. I think the most intense feeling of Bach’s presence that I have had so far was in the dress rehearsal yesterday morning. We started with J.S. Bach’s Magnificat. There is a fantastic moment at the end of the piece just before the opening "Magnificat"** music comes back where I suddenly got goosebumps – the boys were singing so joyfully, the orchestra was playing their hearts out, the sound was so beautiful – clear, resonant and soaring over top of the pews to the few lucky people who chose that moment to pop into the church. I suddenly thought “He must be here!” I know it’s crazy – but his bones do live just below the altar…if ghosts exist, Bach’s surely must live at the St. Thomas Church.
*Here is a Ton Koopman playing the Magnificat Fugue:

** You can watch the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra play the Magnificat at St. Thomas’s here (my favourite part is 32:32):

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