Bachland-Tour through Arnstadt

Bach and Arnstadt, that is a great passion. The young composer arrived in the town in the summer of 1703 at the age of 18 to start his first post as organist. He must have left behind a great impression when four weeks before he made his first visit to the town on the river Gera with a different purpose: to assess the organ in the new church which had been put up after a major fire in the town. He proved in his playing that he was a true genius and thus Johann Sebastian Bach remained connected with the town in many ways until 1707.

Bachdenkmal Arnstadt

The Bach memorial in the market is a good starting point for a tour of Arnstadt, one of the oldest places in Thuringia. The bronze sculpture was unveiled in 1985 and reactions were divided. In modern parlance it was a cool and, above all, young Bach who idly lolled around on a bench. The artist Bernd Göbel’s sculpture, commissioned to mark the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth, is certainly unconventional.

The town‘s market square is a gem: one can look out on the historical facades of many of the surrounding houses and, of course, the church which has born the name of the great composer since 1935. The Johann Sebastian Bach Church, or in short form, the Bach Church, is impressive not least because of its special acoustic which derives from the wooden barrel vaulting. The two important organs in the Church, the 1703 Wender organ and the 1913 Steinmeyer organ, were restored and rebuilt between 1997 and 1999. Both instruments are milestones in the art of organ building in central Germany and can regularly be heard in services.

Arnstadt brings to life the tradition of its most famous guest with numerous activities and attractions. Alongside the traditional Arnstadt Bach Festival, there is regularly a small Bach Festival in the summer and before Christmas a “Bach Advent”. One should also not forget the popular regional concert series, the Thuringia Organ Summer.

Pano_Platzhalter_Arnstadt

Interaktives Panorama der Bachkirche

The exhibition “Bach in Arnstadt” in the Castle Museum demonstrates the town’s deep and committed relationship with the history of the Bach family. Numerous members of this family of musicians were active for centuries as organists, city pipers and court musicians. Alongside some artefacts, the exhibition presents a great deal of information about music and the social history of Arnstadt.

Those not strolling in Bach’s footsteps through the narrow lanes should take a closer look at the town’s churches. It is not just the Bach Church which is a worthwhile objective. The Upper Church  and the Church of Our Lady are also important sacred buildings in the town.

And a perfect idea for an excursion lies just a few kilometres away from Arnstadt. In the charming village church of St Bartholomew Johann Sebastian Bach married his second cousin, Maria Barbara Bach, in October 1707. According to historical records the wedding party processed across the fields from Arnstadt to Dornheim. From this marriage came seven children, amongst them the most famous Bach sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel.

1707 was not only the year of this great celebration but also a year of departure. Johann Sebastian Bach left Arnstadt and became organist in the free imperial city of Mühlhausen. He had asked the town council to release him from his contract even before the wedding in Dornheim. However, Arnstadt remained faithful to the Bach family. His successor as organist in Arnstadt was Bach’s cousin, Johann Ernst.

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