Note: The UNESCO initiative has since been discontinued and has been replaced with the European Heritage Label.
Objective of the Leipzig UNESCO Initiative is the application for admittance to the UNESCO World Heritage List on the basis of the authentic sites of composers' life and work
- Since the 17th century, Leipzig has evolved into one of Europe's foremost musical metropoli. Its prominence in the fields of commerce (leading international trade fair), academia (second-oldest German university) and publishing (world's oldest music publisher) drew artists, particularly musicians, from the furthest reaches of the German-speaking world. In addition, Leipzig is home to two educational institutions of the highest repute, both operating on a base of unparalleled history and tradition - St. Thomas' Choir and Germany's oldest conservatory.
- During two periods of its history, Leipzig has stood at the forefront of the musical world: during the baroque with Bach and Telemann, then later in the course of the romantic epoch with Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner. The subsequent chronicle of eminent composers whose activities, at least for a time, focused on Leipzig extends into the 20th century: Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler, Leos Janacek, Max Reger.
- The majority of the homes and workplaces of these composers are still standing today. This is unrivalled in Germany and, in international terms, is second only to Vienna. Unique in Leipzig, however, is the proximity of these sites, allowing one to experience 300 years of musical history during the course of a short walk through the city.
- The unique concentration of activity and creativity, living musical tradition and publishing, as well as production and architecture comprises, together with the preserved domiciles of the numerous composers active here, a musical heritage object of immense value.
- Similar to the way Weimar linked classical German literature with the places where it was written, or Eisleben and Wittenberg linked Luther's life and work with authentic sites, thus achieving inclusion on the World Heritage List, Leipzig is a living exhibition of the significance of the relationship between the creation and location of German music of the 18th to the 20th centuries.
- Admittance to the ranks of UNESCO sites would enable Leipzig both to nurture its musical heritage with greater intensity and also to anchor it more deeply in the consciousness of the broader population.
Criteria for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List
Inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List is dependent on the fulfilment of at least one of the ten criteria stated in the "Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention". The Leipzig nomination is based primarily on criteria III and VI:
"Nominated properties shall...
(III) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(IV) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (...)"
Leipzig's nomination is, therefore, based on the following:
("...unique...exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition")
- The sites of the musical activity of celebrated composers from the baroque to historism, mostly still preserved today
- Groups of buildings and original locations from the early renaissance to historism, documenting 300 years of musical history.
("associated with...artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance")
- The connection between "intellect and locality" through the association between German music of the baroque and romantic epochs and the authentic Leipzig music sites, connected by the Music Trail
- The respective association between particular works and constellation of buildings, comparable to that established in the Martin Luther towns, Eisleben and Wittenberg
- the universal significance of the output of Leipzig's composers and the resulting exceptional cultural historical value of their sites of activity, as well as the importance of the related research resources for both the present and future generations.
Scope of the nomination
The following sites are of greatest cultural historical importance:
The "Composer Houses"
- Bose House / Bach Museum - baroque; residence of Bach's friends, the merchant Bose and family.
- Mendelssohn House - classical
- Schumann House - classical
- Grieg Memorial House - neo-renaissance; residence of the significant music publisher, Peters, also home to and workplace of Edvard Grieg
- The churches of St. Thomas and St. Nicholas - both of romanic-gothic origin; both played host to the first performance of many of Bach's works
- "Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum" coffee shop - renaissance/baroque; oldest coffee shop in Germany, favoured meeting place of Robert Schumann's "Davidsbündler" and intellectual epicentre of the "Neue Zeitschrift für Musik" (New Musical Journal)
- Conservatoire of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" - neo-classical; Max Reger's domain
- House of Gustav Mahler - historism; stands in the Waldstraße Quarter, one of the largest monumental expanses in Germany
- Old St. Nicholas' School - renaissance; school of the young Richard Wagner
- "Gedächtniskirche" (Commemoration Church) in Leipzig-Schönefeld - classical; wedding venue of Robert and Clara Schumann
Complementary UNESCO programs
In addition to the World Heritage program ("World Heritage" - World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Convention of 1972), two more recent UNESCO programs are relevant for Leipzig as a city of music:
- "Memory of the World" (World Document Heritage of 1992); Leipzig could apply for inclusion of the Bach autographs,
- "Creative Cities Network" (Network of Creative Cities of 2005); Leipzig could apply for the title "City of Music" as a seal of approval for its current musical life.
History of the UNESCO initiative
The Leipzig UNESCO Initiative is the consequence of the amalgamation of two projects, originally developed independently of one another, in 2007:
Tendance of the Leipzig Bach sites and of his cultural legacy. The Thomaskirche (St. Thomas's Church) with Bach's grave stands at the core of this concern; other elements of central importance include the Bach-Archiv (Bach Archive) and Bach-Museum (Bach Museum) as focal points of research and scholarship. (Initiated by R.Manertz)
Leipziger Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail) project. The principal intention of this initiative is to bring the connection between 300 years of musical history and the authentic homes and workplaces of the principal protagonists to life and to make it visible by means of a trail. (Initiated by W.Schneider)
The UNESCO Initiative is supported not only by the participating composer sites but also by prominent figures in Leipzig's cultural life, for example Gewandhauskapellmeister Riccardo Chailly, Thomaskantor (Cantor of St. Thomas's) Georg Christoph Biller, Artistic and Musical Director of the Leipzig Opera Ulf Schirmer and MDR Symphony Orchestra Principal Conductor Jun Märkl.
The probability of success of a nomination with the authentic musical sites, connected by the Leipziger Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail) at its core, is greater than that of a nomination focusing on any other Leipzig monument, for the following reasons:
Places of culture with a musical focus are underrepresented on the World Heritage List - the exhibition of numerous authentic domains of composers of international standing from different musical eras is only possible in Vienna and Leipzig
The universal language of music promotes interracial relations in the most positive sense. The protection of this cultural asset is, therefore, liable to meet with particular international approval
- May 2006: proposal by the initiator of the Leipziger Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail) to the Lord Mayor and the Mayor for culture to apply for the admission to the UNESCO world heritage list with the authentic sites of the Leipziger Notenspur. The proposition is associated with the third attempt to realize the project of the Notenspur.
- Since September 2007: amalgamation of the two existing Leipzig UNESCO initiatives and the formulation of the various elements for a nomination.
- Autumn 2007: preliminary talks with both the German UNESCO Commission and the Delegate of the Permanent Conference of Culture Ministers of the States of the Federal Republic of Germany to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
- July 2008: resolution by the City Council on the support of the UNESCO application.
- Winter term 2008/09: cooperation project with the Brandenburg Technical College in Cottbus, Masters degree course "World Heritage Studies".
- September 2009: presentation of the application concept to the Free State of Saxony.
- October 2009: formation of a committee comprising the Leipzig UNESCO Initiative, the Department of Culture of the City of Leipzig and the participating institutions.
- January 31, 2012: filing of formal application to the Free State of Saxony for the submission to the Conference of State Culture Ministers. Title of application: "Leipziger Notenspur – Sites of European Musical History".
- In case of a positive vote of the Free State of Saxony and the Conference of State Culture Ministers, admission to the "Tentative List" of the Federal Republic of Germany, 2013.
- 26.6.2012: Nomination of Leipziger Notenspur and Gartenstadt Dresden-Hellerau as Saxon proposals for the Tentative List of the Federal Republic of Germany.
- 12.06.2014: Recommendation of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs to favour an application for the newly created European Heritage Label instead of an application for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Further information on the application for the European Heritage Label, awarded 2018here.