Leipzig has long been a city of music, drawing not only Johann Sebastian Bach but a host of other famous musicians and composers as well. Now, a musical tour through the city honors them.
An extra-large balloon can be difficult to maneuver when a cold wind from the North blows across Leipzig's Market Square. The choreography for the inaugural events for "Leipziger Notenspur" (Leipzig's Trail of Notes) seems more coincidental than rehearsed. But the dancers in blue from the Johann Sebastian Bach Music School smile away, minimizing the chaos around them. The 23 bouncing blue balloons, each held by a dancer, symbolize each station along the city tour of musical history.
While the dancers are fighting the forces of nature down on the street, the two men behind the project are standing above them: Mayor Burkhard Jung, who is using his term to promote Leipzig as a "world city of music," and a proudly smiling Werner Schneider, mastermind of the Trail of Notes.
Music Moves the City
Schneider is a physicist at the University of Leipzig and loves classical music. It took three attempts before officials agreed to his city tour idea, which he started developing in 1998. The tour links up 23 different spots of musical importance in the city, each marked by symbols etched into the ground.
Despite the city's first two refusals, Schneider persisted.
"Leipzig is the only city in the world that can offer its visitors such a density of places of musical importance in terms of world-famous composers - and all within walking distance," Schneider noted.
Eight years later, in 2006, the city finally agreed, and the project got off the ground. But it took yet another six years before enough money could be drummed up for the Music Moves the City program to be realized. Now, visitors to Leipzig can enjoy it in all its musical colors.
The part of the program known as the Trail of Notes has helped market the city on the Pleiße River. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Robert Schumann, Edvard Grieg, Richard Wagner and, of course, Johann Sebastian Bach - all of these composers are closely associated with the city, having lived and worked there. That helps explain Leipzig's long-standing appeal to German and European artists, writers and composers.
Criss-crossing the city
The trail is five kilometers (3.1 miles) long and begins at Leipzig's famous Gewandhaus concert hall. Some 300 meters east from there is the next station - where Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy lived and died. After that comes the Museum for Musical Instruments, one of the largest instrument collections in the world with 5,000 objects. Crossing over the old Johannis Graveyard, where famous cantors, music writers, and people such as Richard Wagner's mother and sister are buried, one reaches the Robert Schumann House, where the composer lived from 1840-44 with his wife Clara Wieck. It it here that Schumann composed his "Spring Symphony," or "Symphony No. 1 in B flat major," among others.
The Trail of Notes then leads back to the city center, past the Richard Wagner Monument, the opera, St. Nikolai Church and the 500-year-old St. Nikolai School (now a restaurant), which Richard Wagner once attended. The Museum of Fine Arts is also part of the tour, which then leads across the Market Square, past Station No. 13 - the Old City Hall - to the true highlights of the tour: St. Thomas Church and the Bach Museum. It was at the Thomaskirche that Johann Sebastian Bach worked for 27 years as a cantor and composed many of his central works, his "Christmas Oratorio" as well as his "St. John Passion" and "St. Matthew Passion."
At the inauguration of the "Trail of Notes," large orchestras and small bands played at dozens of locations throughout the city, while amateur choirs sang from the steps in front of the opera. Visitors were enthused about the program.
"It's a great thing for Leipzig, and particularly nice that it was mainly brought into being through the commitment of its citizens," one visitor said.
And it's true: many smaller sponsors made the project possible - a testament to the importance of the city's musical heritage to today's residents.
Author: Ronny Arnold / als
Editor: Greg Wiser