»A beautiful new song« – Music and Reformation

Bachfest Leipzig • June 09–18, 2017

Martin Luther regarded »Frau Musica« as a divine art, as it was »anathema to the devils«. Consequently, he placed music on a par with theology, made sacred songs in the German language an integral part of the Reformation programme and let them be a part of worship.

Frequently entitled »beautiful new songs«, the new repertoire of Reformation hymns – which included numerous texts and melodies by the Reformer himself – spread like wildfire. Luther’s hymns rapidly became the first ›classics‹ of Protestant church music, often, moreover, acting as the starting point for new compositions. The 2017 Bach Festival will be focusing on arrangements of Luther’s hymns in the work of Bach, but will also include Bach’s predecessors, contemporaries and successors up to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. And we will not be forgetting that the music of Catholic contemporaries also served as an impetus in the musical development of Protestant composers: Heinrich Schütz, the »father of modern German music«, and Johann Rosenmüller, who nearly became cantor of St. Thomas’s Church, studied their art in Venice. And with his B minor Mass, even Bach produced a »great Catholic mass« which, more than any other work, blurs the lines between the confessions.

Opera also crosses confessional boundaries. It was largely defined as a genre by Claudio Monteverdi, the key innovator in western music. This is why his Orfeo and the premiere of the newly discovered, oldest surviving German opera »Pastorello musicale« by Johann Sebastiani, will also be enriching the Bach Festival programme.

You can look forward to hearing prominent ensembles such as the Thomanerchor, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Monteverdi Choir conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Dunedin Consort, Al Ayre Español, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, who, in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, will be performing numerous »beautiful new songs« from four centuries in Leipzig’s authentic venues.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, President
Prof. Dr. Peter Wollny, Director
Dr. Alexander Steinhilber, Executive Director

A short introduction into this year’s Bach Festival topic can be found here.

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