Lecture: Bach, the Mass, and the Leipzig Lutheran Service


February 24, 2012 - 4:00pm

Jeffrey S. Sposato, Associate Professor of Musicology
Moores School of Music, University of Houston

What can we learn about Johann Sebastian Bach’s church music practices by looking at his Leipzig successors? Scholars have previously assumed that when Gottlob Harrer took over as Thomaskantor after Bach’s death in 1750, he fundamentally rethought the musical priorities of the Leipzig service, increasing the importance of the concerted Latin mass and diminishing the role of the cantata. This paper uses Leipzig church diaries and the contents of Bach’s and Harrer’s libraries to demonstrate that the shift in musical focus from cantatas to masses attributed to Harrer was likely more gradual and began with Bach during the 1730s.

Jeffrey S. Sposato is Associate Professor of Musicology at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston. His most recent book, The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2006), was named a Choice magazine Outstanding Academic Title for 2006 and a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award finalist. He is currently working on a new book entitled Leipzig After Bach: Musical Life in a German City, 1750–1850. In 2011–2012, he is a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh.