From the Blog of Prof. Dr. Vic McCracken, Prof. for Theologie and Ethik at the Abilene Christian University in Texas
Words of the Day: besser als Wien
Posted on February 25, 2015
So a quick preposition question for anyone reading who is fluent in German. What is the right preposition to use when you want to say that something is “better than _____”? My German dictionary makes me think that als is the correct preposition, but I’m not certain. Today’s words of the day, besser als Wien, beckon back to a conversation I had a few weeks ago at the Forum Thomanum, where local Leipzigers spoke with pride about how Leipzig is “better than Vienna” (besser als Wien). Everyone knows Vienna, Austria’s capital and home of such luminaries as Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn, Mahler, and many more. Leipzig is less than 1/3 the size of Vienna. Nonetheless, Leipzig boasts some stalwarts of its own; in fact, nearly 500 different composers have some connection to the city. Yesterday I went with my students to City Center where we journeyed on the “Leipzig music walk,” a 5 km trail through the city that takes one to important sites connected to the city’s music history.
I don’t intend to turn today’s post into a point-by-point summary of the walk. The City has created a fabulous Notenspur app available on itunes that has a map of the trail. The app allows one to download audio commentary for each point and musical excerpts from different composers who have some connection to the City. Very high quality stuff indeed. A few highlights as evidence to justify Leipziger pride:
- The Gewandhaus orchestra was founded in 1743 and performs regularly at the Neues Gewandhaus (opened in 1981; the original Gewandhaus was severely damaged during World War II). The Neues Gewandhaus hosts nearly 800 performances a year.
- In Leipzig one can visit the last home of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847). Mendelssohn lived here for two years before his death. Mendelssohn began his service as the director of the Gewandhaus orchestra in 1835. His home in Leipzig is the only Mendelssohn home that remains standing. At this site he completed his oratorio, Elias.
- Edward Grieg (1843-1907) frequented the city of Leipzig during the last 30 years of his life. While in Leipzig he composed the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. The city has a memorial centre devoted to him.
- Robert and Clara Schumann lived in Leipzig during the earliest days of their marriage. Robert composed his first symphony here, and their first two children were born in Leipzig. The Schumann house is now a memorial centre and recital hall.
- Leipzig was a major hub for music publishing in the 18th and 19th centuries, serving composers such as Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt and Richard Wagner, Leipzig’s favorite musical son.
- Yes, Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig. He also had a very unhappy schooling experience at Leipzig’s Alte Niklaischule. In the Alte Gewandhaus in Leipzig (no longer standing), Wagner conducted the first performance of the overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The first performance of Wagner’s Ring trilogy outside of Bayreuth happened at the Leipzig Opera, which still regularly performs Wagner’s repertoire. The opera performs nearly 300 performances per season.
- As I noted before, Johann Sebastian Bach spent the last years of his life as the cantor at the Thomaskirche. Bach alone would be enough for any city to claim a special place in the history of Western music.