The history of the Leipzig Bach Archive

The Leipzig Bach Archive was founded on November 20, 1950 to mark the occasion of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 200th death anniversary. The purpose of the Bach Archive was to gather the sources and documents about the life and works of the Cantor of St. Thomas’s, which were strewn all over the city of Leipzig, and to preserve them for the future. In the following decades, the institution became a world-renowned research centre and successful host of the annual Leipzig Bach Festival, established in 1999 on behalf of the city of Leipzig. Apart from the research centre and the library, the Bach Archive also hosts a cutting edge museum with an exhibition area of 450 square meters in its home, the historic Bose House building right across from St. Thomas’s Church. The museum takes pride in offering several special exhibitions per year, a wide range of museum education events as well as a series of exclusive chamber concerts in the Baroque Summer Hall of the Bose House. Furthermore, the Leipzig Bach Archive organizes the Leipzig International Bach Competition Leipzig and since 1999 the annual Bachfest Leipzig



Second home of the Bach Archive 1951–1985: Gohliser Schlösschen Palace in the northwest of Leipzig. Photo: LTM/Andreas Schmidt

The initiator and for many years also the director of the institution Werner Neumann had suggested the formation of the archive in the most important city for Bach’s life and works and he successfully persuaded the City of Leipzig and the State of Saxony to support the project. The circumstances after the war were rather unfavourable, so the Bach Archive was first established in the Old Town Hall and since 1951 in Gohliser Schlösschen Palace. In the year 1985 the Bach Archive moved to the historical Bose House at St Thomas's Square. One year later the Leipzig Bach scholar Prof. Hans-Joachim Schulze became the director of the Bach Archive. In the meantime, the institution had been incorporated into the Eastern German state organisation »National research and memorial sites J. S. Bach in the GDR« and had lost its independence.


Apart from the originally intended collection and preservation of sources about the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach, soon a new complete edition of his works was to be published. Consequently, a very close and under the circumstances also unusual academic cooperation began with the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut Göttingen, which lasted beyond the Cold War and the Reunification of Germany and was successfully concluded with the edition of the 103rd volume in 2007.


The New Bach Edition. Photo: Gert Mothes


Meanwhile, also the works of Bach’s sons Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel are being edited in cooperation with the Packard Humanities Institute in California, the Saxonian Academy of Sciences and the German Research Foundation. Furthermore, original Bach manuscripts are in the process of being scanned for the project »Bach Digital«, which is available online. Particularly since its transition to the legal form of a foundation (Stiftung) in the year 1998, the Bach Archive experienced numerous reforms and innovations: the first Leipzig Bach Festival organised by the Bach Archive took place in the following year, the archive was declared associated institue of the University of Leipzig, a title which includes the privilege to train future Bach scholars, and after the extensive renovation and expansion of the Bose House, the re-opening of the Leipzig Bach Museum by the former German President Horst Köhler in March 2010 was covered by media from all over the world. Nowadays, interested visitors find broad information on the famous composer in the Leipzig Bach Archive. International Bach scholars study autograph sources in the library, while Kindergarten children enjoy the educational offers and interested tourists shop for musically inspired souvenirs in the Bach museum shop.

We are looking forward to your visit.