The Leipzig Music Trail (Notenspur) was established in 2012 to celebrate the rich history of Leipzig's classical music scene.
Originally proposed as an UNESCO initiative to acknowledge Leipzig as a historical music city, the Notenspur project has grown to include two short walking trails, and one longer cycling trail.
Metal ribbons indicate directions in the pavements along the trail.
Leipzig's musical history
Many famous conductors, composers and musicians have called Leipzig home over the years, including Wagner, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Mahler, Grieg, Janáček, and many more.
Bach and Mendelssohn taught and performed for many years in Leipzig, and both are remembered with museums and festivals, as well as with music schools in their names.
Leipzig Concert Hall (Neues Gewandhaus)
The current Leipzig Concert Hall (Gewandhaus) opened in 1981, after outgrowing two previous locations. The main hall seats 1900, the smaller Mendelssohn Hall, seating 500, is used mostly for chamber music performances and seminars.
Designed by Rudolf Skoda, the hall was tested by the army during construction, firing weapons to test the maximum acoustics. The Concert Hall has a massive 6638 pipe Shuke organ, inscribed with the orchestra's motto (True pleasure is a serious business):
Res severa verum gaudium
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, established with a small group of 16 musicians in 1743, was most famously conducted by Felix Mendelssohn from 1835 until his death in 1847.
The orchestra has performed premiers of many famous works, including:
- Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5
- Bach's Concerto for Three Pianos and Orchestra in D Minor
- Schubert's "Great" C Major Symphony
- Schumann's Symphonies 1, 2 and 4
- Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony and Violin Concerto in E minor (both conducted by Mendelssohn himself)
- Brahms' German Requiem and Violin Concerto in D major
- Dvorak's Cello Concerto in A major
With over 200 recorded CDs, the Gewandhaus Orchestra also performs regularly with the St. Thomas Boys Choir and with the Leipzig opera, and has performed almost 100 New Year's Eve concerts.
The Gewandhaus Choir, Gewandhaus Children's Choir, and various music ensembles, also reside in the Concert Hall.
The MDR cube, attached to the concert hall, is used for rehearsals and recording.
With its own symphony orchestra (once conducted by Richard Strauss), plus adults' and children's choir, the groups perform regularly, tour locally and internationally, and have a hectic CD and radio recording schedule.
The Leipzig Opera was founded in 1693, but has moved halls multiple times. Georg Philipp Teleman composed and directed many operas during his time at this stage, which later featured famous such conductors as Arthur Nikisch and Gustav Mahler.
The bust of Wagner survived the destruction of 1943, and stands in the foyer of the New Leipzig Opera, which opened in 1960, built on the site of the previous theatre.
Seating 1682 audience members, with one balcony and two VIP boxes, the Leipzig Opera hosts theatre performances, operas, musicals, musical comedies, concerts and the Leipzig ballet. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Leipzig Opera House Choir accompany many performances.
Famous churches in Leipzig
St. Nikolai church
The earliest built sections of the St. Nikolai church were completed in 1165, but the church has been extended multiple times since then. St. Nikolai is closely linked to St. Thomas, and holds many concerts, including Bach organ and choral works.
The first performance of the St. John Passion by Bach, was on Good Friday in 1724, in St. Nikolai, by Bach himself.
St. Thomas Church
Built in the early 1200s, St. Thomas contains 2 large organs, the first of which (the little organ) was built in 1489. The larger organ was first built in 1511, but it was later upgraded. Mozart performed on this organ in 1789.
The St. Thomas Boys School and Choir (Thomanerchor) were established 800 years ago, and were led by Bach from 1723 until his death in 1750. Because of his long and close connection to St. Thomas, Bach is buried in the church, and you can visit his grave.
Musical museums in Leipzig
Bach Museum and Archive
Opposite St. Thomas Church is the Bach Museum and Archive, featuring permanent exhibitions about the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The museum houses original manuscripts, instruments and paintings, as well as special exhibitions, especially about his teaching and performances with St. Thomas.
The building also houses research groups and a library dedicated to everything and anything about Bach. With regular concerts around Leipzig throughout the year, a yearly festival and biannual competition, the Bach Archive sponsors many musicians, especially organists!
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 6pm
♫ Author at Hubpages and trombonist, David M. Guion (allpurposeguru) has written an interesting music history book about Carl Traugott Queisser, who was a trombonist, violist, violinist, and musical leader during Mendelssohn's time in Leipzig.
This is the last surviving home of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.
Although he was appointed musical director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, and regularly performed in the Concert Hall and churches, Mendelssohn did not move to Leipzig until 1845, and remained in this house until his death in 1847.
Meldelssohn house has been restored as a museum, and with conductor Kurt Masur, offers piano and chamber music masterclasses (by invitation and application). Concerts are held in Mendelssohn House's music salon regularly.
Open: 10am - 6pm
Test your knowledge ...
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Who composed the Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64?
- Who was born in Leipzig?
- Which violin concerto did Yehudi Menuhin perform with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1981?
- Bach's Violin Concerto in G minor
- Beethoven's Violin Concerto In D Major Op. 61
- Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor Op. 64
- How many symphonies did Robert Schumann compose?
- How long is the average complete length of Wagner's Ring Cycle opera?
- 5 hours
- 8 hours
- 12 hours
- 15 hours
- How many sacred cantatas did Bach write?
- Who wrote the Brandenburg Concertos?
- What instrument did Robert Schumann play?
- At what age did Mozart play organ in St. Thomas church in Leipzig (1789)?
- Who wrote the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 in Leipzig in 1888?
- Beethoven's Violin Concerto In D Major Op. 61
- 15 hours
For the first 4 years after marrying, Robert and Clara Schumann lived in Leipzig, while performing, studying, and teaching.
The museum has restored the original living quarters and study area, and is attached to an elementary school, with a focus on music and the arts.
Open: Wednesday - Friday, 2pm - 5pm; Saturday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm
Schumann's Piano Sonata No.2 in G minor was featured in Nodame Cantabile, and other pieces by Schumann were featured in Piano no Mori and La Corda d'Oro, three fabulous anime series about music students.
GRASSI museum of musical instruments
With over 5000 instruments, dating from the 1600s, and interactive exhibitions, this museum fascinates children and adults alike. Originally opened in 1886, the collection of instruments now belongs to the University of Leipzig.
Permanent and special exhibits feature a range of instruments from Europe and the world, and include one of the oldest original pianos, built in 1726 by inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori.
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 6pm
Leipzig's music trail
Music schools in Leipzig
Mendelssohn Music Conservatory
Lepzig's Music Conservatory was founded by Felix Mendelssohn in 1843 (the Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy").
Many famous performers and composers have studied or worked at the school, including Robert Schumann, Sir Arthur Sullivan, Edvard Grieg, Leoš Janáček, Julius Röntgen (also born in Leipzig), Sir Adrian Boult, and Steffen Schleiermacher.
Students regularly perform around Leipzig as soloists and in various ensembles.
Leipzig University and the Paulinum Church
Several famous musicians, composers and conductors studied and taught at Leipzig University, including Telemann, Wagner, Hiller and Schumann. The university has its own symphony, smaller ensembles and choirs, adding to the music tradition surrounding Augustusplatz.
Mendelssohn's funeral was held in the old University church, which was later destroyed. A small chapel is integrated with the university building in a stunning, modern glass design.
Musical monuments, meeting and performance places
There are a number of monuments and meeting points around the city, dedicated to its famous musicians and composers.
- Bach monument
- Mendelssohn monument
- Wagner monument
- Schubert monument
- C.F. Zöllner monument
- Clara Wieck's birthplace (later Clara Schumann)
- Gustav Mahler's residence
Meeting and performance places
- Edvard and Nina Grieg's meeting place during performances
- The Coffee Tree (Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum) - one of the oldest cafes and favourite meeting place of Robert Schumann.
- Old Town Hall, in the center of the city on the Market Square hosts occasional a capella and ensemble performances, and has two rooms devoted to music in its museum.
- Gohlis Manor, north of the city center, hosts chamber music performances on the 1st, 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month.
Leipzig's musical monuments and meeting places
Classical music festivals in Leipzig
A capella festival
Gewandhausorchester Open Air
Classic Open Festival
Leipzig International Chamber Music Festival
Leipzig's sights and attractions
Leipzig has it's share of non-musical sights and attractions.
One of the best is the Leipzig Zoo - a fantastic one or two day trip for adults and children, and a world leader in protecting and breeding endangered species.
Packed with exotic and endangered animals in wide (and often shared) enclosures, glass and open-air viewing areas let you get up close and personal with the animals.
The Zoo is continually expanding, the newest addition being the huge tropical Gondwanaland enclosure. Development is beginning on the new South America extended exhibit.
Who's your favorite classical composer?
What's your favorite piece of classical music?
Let us know in the comments below!
David Guion from North Carolina on February 02, 2013:
I have come across this hub now for the second time and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. Since then, I have written an ebook on musical Leipzig in Mendelssohn's time through the career of Carl Traugott Queisser. He was principal violist in the Gewandhaus orchestra, sometime violist in the world's first financially successful string quartet, vioninist and sometime concertmaster in the Euterpe (Leipzig's second orchestra), and a world-renowned trombone virtuoso, among his other activities. I'm sending a link separately and would be grateful if you would let your readers know about it. Thanks again for a beautifully conceived and written hub.
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on May 24, 2012:
This looks like a beautiful and interesting city to visit. Such beautiful music. Thanks for sharing!Lovely scenery. I don't get to travel abroad much so I really appreciate this.
klarawieck on May 21, 2012:
Well, this put a giant smile on my face. Thank you! I can't wait to go visit. I'll need about a month to do and see everything. Very well researched and presented.