Just a quick note on the last day of the tour. Members of the group had the early part of the day free to explore Leipzig. Then came two crowning musical experiences, a recital of the Bach Partitas by András Schiff and a deeply moving performance of Bach’s St. John Passion by the London-based group Solomon’s Knot at St. Nicholas Church.
We paid a visit to Weimar, a city graced by the presence of Bach, Goethe, Schiller, and Liszt.
Here’s the entry to the castle where Bach worked. Inside the arch is the cell in which Bach was imprisoned by his royal employer for a month because of his audacity in accepting a job in another town.
This wall, with its door and two windows, is all that remains of Bach’s house in Weimar. The site is now a hotel parking lot, but a local organization is hopeful about acquiring the property and reconstructing the house.
And here are some other views of Weimar, beginning with the town hall:
A profound day in Leipzig with a visit to Bach’s musical home, the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas Church), and the Bach Museum.
In the evening, a concert at the church by the Basel-based baroque orchestra La Cetra, concertos by Vivaldi alternating with Bach’s organ transcriptions of the concertos (an important part of Bach’s self-education).
Bach and friend from LA
At the museum – one of the original portraits of Bach
At the museum – another Bach
At the museum – yet another Bach
La Cetra after their concert at the Thomaskirche
Days 4 and 5
We spent our last morning (Saturday) in Dresden at the Old Masters Gallery. Among the high points: a Vermeer (c. 1659) undergoing restoration to reveal what had been painted over, Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna” (1513), and several of Canaletto’s 18th-century paintings of Dresden. In the evening, back to Semperoper for Verdi’s Nabucco with Plácido Domingo in top form in the title role. One of his arias brought forth foot stamping as well as thunderous applause from the full house.
Sunday we headed for Leipzig and the Bach Festival, where we immediately encountered two accordionists playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. In the afternoon, a visit to Mendelssohn’s last home in the city (1845-1847). And in the evening Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhaus Orchestra performing music by Bach and Mendelssohn.
What a weekend!
Vermeer’s “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window”
Raphael’s “The Sistine Madonna”
Canaletto’s “Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe”
Plácido Domingo and the cast of “Nabucco”
Bach for two in the streets of Leipzig
Herbert Blomstedt and the Gewandhaus Orchestra
On Friday morning the KUSC Saxony tour traveled east from Dresden to Pillnitz Palace, then on to the “Saxon Switzerland” national park, with its magnificent view of the Elbe River. During the early afternoon, we cruised down the Elbe. And in the evening, a sparkling production of Mozart’s Magic Flute at Semperoper Dresden.
View of the Elbe River from the heights of Saxon Switzerland
Ready to cruise the Elbe
“Magic Flute” at Semperoper
“Magic Flute” at Semperoper
On Thursday, the KUSC Saxony tour made an excursion from Dresden to the nearby town of Meissen, where European porcelain was invented in 1710. We toured the museum and saw three centuries of porcelain artistry. Then came demonstrations of various stages in the long and meticulous process of creating these beautiful pieces.
The Meissen town center
Porcelain carillon bells in the clock tower
The artisan finishing a piece before it is glazed and painted
Finally, a recital on the only organ in the world with porcelain pipes. The 18th-century Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong wanted such an organ built, but it was not possible until recently. One big obstacle to creating pipes of the exact lengths required is that porcelain shrinks 16 percent during the manufacturing process.
We’re lucky to have such a beautiful, sunny day in Dresden to kick off the KUSC tour of Saxony. Highlights of the walking tour included the royal palace, an organ recital and conversation with the organist at the Hofkirche, and amazing views of the city from the top of the Frauenkirche. In the evening a private tour of the Saxon treasures, including a gold clock and an incredibly detailed ivory frigate.
The royal palace
The organ at Hofkirche
A view from atop the Frauenkirche
Another view from atop the Frauenkirche
The gold clock
The ivory frigate