A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Leipzig

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LEIPZIG (i.e. the place of Lime-trees), in Saxony, on the junction of the Pleisse and the Elster, 135,000 inhabitants, has for a long time been the most musical place in North Germany. When Rochlitz visited Beethoven[1] at Vienna in 1822, the first thing which the great composer did was to praise Leipzig and its music—'If I had nothing to read but the mere dry lists of what they do, I should read them with pleasure. Such intelligence! such liberality!' The main ostensible causes of this pre-eminence have been (1) the long existence of the St. Thomas school as a musical institution with a first-class musician as its Cantor; (2) the Gewandhaus concerts; (3) the presence of the great music-publishing house of Breitkopfs, almost equal in importance to a public institution; (4) the existence for fifty years of the principal musical periodical of the country—the 'Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung'; (5) in our own times, the long residence there of Mendelssohn, and the foundation by him of the Conservatorium, with its solid and brilliant staff of professors—a centre, for many years, of the musical life not only of Germany, but of other countries; and lastly (6) several very remarkable private musical institutions.

1. The Thomas-schule, or School of St. Thomas, is an ancient public school of the same nature as our cathedral and foundation grammar-schools, but with the special feature that about 60 of the boys are taught music, who are called Alumni, and are under the charge of a Cantor, forming the 'Thomaner-Chor.' This body is divided into 4 choirs, with a Prefect at the head of each, and serve the Churches of St. Thomas, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, and the Neukirche or New-Church. On Sundays the first choir joins the town orchestra for the morning service at St. Thomas or St. Nicholas; and on Saturday afternoons at 1.30 the whole four choirs unite in a performance under the direction of the Cantor. The boys are remarkable for the readiness and correctness with which they sing the most difficult music at sight.

The Cantor, in German towns and villages, corresponds to the Precentor or leader of the choir in English cathedrals and churches, and the Cantor of the St. Thomas School at Leipzig has for long been acknowledged as the head and representative of them all. For more than two centuries the office has been filled by very distinguished musicians, as will be seen from the following list, taken from Mendel's Conversations-Lexicon der Tonkunst:—

Johann Urban 1429
Martin Klotsch 1470
Ludwig Götze
George Rhaw 1519–20
Johannes Herrmann 1531–36
Wolfgang Jünger 1536–40
Ulrich Lange 1540–49
Wolfgang Figulus 1549–51
Melchior Hager 1551–64
Valenten Otto 1564–94
Sethus Calvisius 1594–1615
Joh. Herrmann Schein 1615–30
Tobias Michael
Joh. Rosenmüller
Sebastian Knüpfer 1657–76
Johann Schelle 1676–1701
Johann Kuhnau 1701–22
Joh. Sebastian Bach 1723–50
Gottlob Hasser 1750–55
Joh. Friedrich Doles 1755–89
Joh. Adam Hiller 1789–1800
A. Eberhard Müller 1800–10
Joh. Gottfried Schicht 1810–23
Christoph Theodor Weinlig 1823–42
Moritz Hauptmann 1842–68
Ernst Friedrich Richter 1868–79

[App. p.699 "In the list of cantors given on p. 115, omit the name of Joh. Rosenmuller, and between those of Weinlig and Hauptmann, insert that of Christoph August Pohlenz, who held the post only from March to September 1842. At end of list add the name of Wilhelm Rust, who has been Cantor since 1879. Other additions to the article will be found under Thomasschule, vol. iv. p. 198."]

2. The Gewandhaus Concerts have been already described under their own head. [See vol. i. p. 592b.] Mendelssohn conducted them from Oct. 4, 1835, till the end of the series 1842–43, when he was compelled to leave Leipzig for Berlin, and they were then transferred to Ferdinand Hiller.

3. For the great publishing establishment of Breitkopf & Härtel, we refer the reader to the former volume of this work [p. 272], merely adding here, that since that article was written the edition of Mendelssohn has been completed; that of Mozart (a truly immense undertaking) is progressing satisfactorily; a complete edition of Chopin (in 14 vols.) is nearly finished; and that an entire edition of the works of Palestrina, both printed and MS., in continuation of that begun by Witt, Rauch, and Espagne, extending in all to 29 folio volumes, was announced by these indefatigable publishers on January 27, 1879. In addition to these they began in 1878 a cheap edition of classical music, a collection of Libretti, and a publication of music paper and music MS. books.

4. The 'Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung,' or 'General Musical Times,' was begun by the firm just mentioned in 1798, on October 3 of which year the first number was published. It was in 4to; 8 pages weekly, numbered in 16 columns, to which were added occasionally pieces of music in type (and admirable type too), copperplates, and advertisement sheets. Each volume had a portrait as frontispiece. With 1810 the volumes began with the beginning of the year. The Zeitung contained articles on musical subjects of all kinds, biographical notices, reviews of new pieces, reports from foreign towns, etc. etc., and though seriously defective in many points, was an honest and good attempt at a musical periodical. Among the editors were Rochlitz (1798–1818), Fink (1827–41), Hauptmann (1843), Lobe (1846–48). With the 50th vol. (for 1848) the first series came to an end. There is an excellent Index in 3 parts. Since that date the Zeitung has been continued by Rieter-Biedermann under various editors, of whom the most considerable is Dr. Chrysander.

5. The idea and the foundation of the Conservatorium were entirely due to Mendelssohn, by whom the King of Saxony was induced to allow a sum of 20,000 thalers, bequeathed by a certain Hofkriegsrath Blümner 'for the purposes of art and science,' to be devoted to the establishment of a 'solid musical academy at Leipzig.' The permission was obtained in Nov. 1842, the necessary accommodation was granted by the corporation of the town in the Gewandhaus—a large block of buildings containing two Halls, a Library, and many other rooms—and the Conservatorium was opened on April 1, 1843. Mendelssohn was the first chief, and the teachers were:—harmony and counterpoint, Hauptmann; composition and pianoforte, Mendelssohn and Schumann; violin, Ferdinand David; singing, Pohlenz; organ, Becker. There were ten scholarships, and the fees for the ordinary pupils were 75 thalers per annum. In 1846, at Mendelssohn's urgent entreaty, Moscheles left his London practice, and became professor of the pianoforte at the modest salary of £120; and at that date the staff also embraced Gade, Plaidy, Brendel, Richter (afterwards Cantor), and others whose names have become inseparably attached to the Conservatorium. The management of the institution is in the hands of a board of directors chosen from the principal inhabitants of the town, and not professional musicians. The first name inscribed in the list of pupils is Theodor Kirchner, and it is followed by those of Otto Goldschmidt, Bargiel, Grimm, Norman, etc. Amongst Englishmen are found J. F. Barnett, Sullivan, Walter Bache, Franklin Taylor, etc., and the American names include Dannreuther, Willis, Mills, Paine, and others.

6. Of the private institutions we may mention:—(1) the 'Riedelsche Verein,' a choral society founded in 1854 by Carl Riedel, its conductor, and renowned throughout Germany for its performances of sacred music of all periods, from Palestrina and Schütz down to Brahms and Liszt. (2) The 'Euterpe,' an orchestral concert society, which, though its performances cannot come into competition with those of the Gewandhaus, is yet of importance as representing a more progressive element in music than prevails in the exclusively classical programmes of the older institution. The names of Berlioz, Liszt, Raff, Rubinstein and others, appear prominently in the concerts of the Euterpe. Verhulst, Bronsart, and other eminent musicians, have been its conductors. (3) The 'Paulus,' an academical choral society of male voices, deserves mention as one of the best of its kind in Germany.

[ G. ]

  1. 'Für Freunde der Tonkunst,' iv. 354.