A new way of looking at things
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of looking at things.” –  Henry Miller

Curt Veeneman, Ph.D.


Johann Sebastian Bach's Germany

Part 5 - Arnstadt

2 May 2014

A street in Arnstadt



Bach’s Brief First Stay in Weimar

Johann Sebastian Bach first came to Weimar shortly after his studies in Lüneburg.  It was 1703 and he worked for Duke Johann Ernst (the non-reigning brother of Wilhelm Ernst, reigning Duke of Saxe-Weimar) both as a servant and as a violinist in the private orchestra.  He left this position after only six months to take the organist position in Arnstadt, about 35 k / 22 mi away from Weimar.  (Fascinatingly, Johann Sebastian Bach’s grandfather worked for the same duke in Weimar 70 years earlier!)  Bach would return to Weimar after working in Arnstadt for nearly five years and remain this time in Weimar for almost ten years.  We shall pick up our discussion of Bach’s experiences in Weimar in a subsequent part of this blog entry and continue for now with his residence in Arnstadt.


Johann Sebastian Bach's Germany

Part 4 - Hamburg continued

25 April 2014

The Hamburger Kunsthalle


Kunsthalle Hamburg 

This morning I had come to the conclusion that maybe, after all, my body did have its limits and that after driving 572 kilometers the day before yesterday, and after yesterday's long day, a morning walking around an art museum didn't sound so bad.  Besides, the Kunsthalle (art gallery) was currently hosting an exhibition of more than 70 oil paintings, and over 100 watercolors, pencil, and sepia drawings, by the most important German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).

The Hamburger Kunsthalle was just a short walk away from my hotel, and so I started off in the brisk morning air, passed the Deutsches Schauspielhaus (theater), crossed the overpass above almost twenty tracks leading to the Hauptbahnhof, and reached the Kunstalle on Glockengiesserwall.  The museum is so huge — it occupies at least four buildings taking up more than a city block — that I wasn't sure where to enter for the Friedrich exhibit.  There are four main sections:  Galerie der Gegenwart (contemporary), Klassische Moderne (20th c.), 19. Jaarhundert (nineteenth century), and Alte Meister (Old Masters).


Johann Sebastian Bach's Germany

Part 3 - Hamburg

18 April 2014

Bach and Hamburg

While Johann Sebastian Bach was a student in Lüneburg it is likely that he studied organ with Georg Böhm at the Johanniskirche (Church of St. John).  Bach also made trips by foot to Hamburg (about 50 km/32 mi from Lüneburg) to hear Johann Adam Reincken, considered at the time to be the greatest organist and keyboard composer in Northern Germany.


Towns and cities in which J.S. Bach had lived or had visited, 1685-1702

 The Dutch-German Reincken (1643–1722) was organist at the Katharinenkirche (St. Katharine's Church) in Hamburg, and also a friend of the great organist Dieterich Buxtehude, who lived in Lübeck (about 65 km/42 mi from Hamburg).  It is possible that Bach met Buxtehude at Reincken’s house.  Both composers came to have a great influence on the young Johann Sebastian Bach.


Johann Sebastian Bach's Germany

Part 2 - Ohrdruf, Lüneburg

11 April 2014



Read Part 1: Eisenach


Johann Sebastian Bach’s father, Johann Ambrosius, had a twin brother named Johann Christoph Bach (1645–1693).  Johann Christoph was a court musician in Arnstadt, located about 58 k (36 mi) from Eisenach.  Apparently the twin brothers looked so similar that even their wives could not tell them apart.  (One would think that one could easily spot the brother in the Japanese kimono [see illustration, Part 1], but perhaps this didn’t occur to anyone at the time.)  More curiously, the problem was that when one of the twins felt ill, so did the other.  Thus, in 1793, when Johann Sebastian Bach’s uncle died, it did not bode well for the other twin, Johann Sebastian Bach’s father.

Then, the next spring (1694), Johann Sebastian Bach’s mother died at the age of 50, when Bach was only nine.  His father remarried within six months, but then he died three months later in1695, also aged 50, sadly leaving Johann Sebastian Bach an orphan.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (1671–1721), having the same name as his uncle, took in both Johann Sebastian, now 10,  and his 13-year-old brother, Johann Jakob.  Johann Christoph was organist at Michaeliskirche (St. Michael’s Church) in Ohrdruf, 45 k (28 mi) from Eisenach, and had just married the previous fall.  He had studied organ in Erfurt with Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), who was very popular when he was alive, but now seems to be famous for his one greatest hit, Canon in D.


Johann Sebastian Bach's Germany

Part 1 - Eisenach

4 April 2014

This monument to the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach is located near the Bachhaus in Eisenach, Germany.


In 2006 I went to Germany and, on a kind of quest, traveled to every city (with a few minor exceptions) in which Johann Sebastian Bach either lived, or to which he journeyed, or to which he had any significant connection. (All of these cities are now included in the Johann Sebastian Bach's GERMANY tour offered by Travel Con Brio®.)

This blog entry blends salient biographical information about the great composer with — in spite of some of my own personal (read humorous) foibles — enlightening experiences that can be had in Germany today.  Along the way in our exploration of Bach's life, we will encounter 14 cities in Germany which offer delightful surprises in history, music, art, architecture, language, and cuisine

The photographs used in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are by Curt Veeneman.

Who started Travel Con Brio®?

Composer, scholar (in music theory, ethnomusicology, and music history), performer, educator, conference organizer, and entrepreneur, Curt Veeneman received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

His additional interests, subsumed in wonder at the beauty of God’s entire creation, include art (he was an art major before the balance tipped ever-so-slightly toward music), literature, architecture, photography, mathematics, history, languages, cultural studies, world-cuisines, and, of course, travel.
photograph by Colleen Veeneman

In founding Travel Con Brio®, Curt was eager to synthesize all of these interests to create imaginative, stirring, and enlightening experiences to be enjoyed by both young and mature travelers alike.  The tours that he organizes reflect his extensive travel experience and familiarity with the art, music and culture of numerous countries, with each tour being richly enhanced by local experts.

Curt and his wife Colleen live near San Francisco.  They have three children.

What is this blog about?

Culled from a number of trips abroad, this blog compiles various experiences in an attempt to reveal the cultural nuances of places visited on Travel Con Brio® tours.  Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, Curt’s observations are intended to describe and appreciate the personalities, character, idiosyncrasies, conventions, mood, and ambiance of places visited.  Contemplations of topics ranging from language and customs to climate and bureaucracies are freely offered alongside art and music reviews.  Any cultural issue, if illuminating, can become the focus.

These musings on the personal impact of various cultures are offered so that you, as a traveler, may compare and contrast your own impressions with them.  Do you share a similar interest?  Do you agree with a specific conclusion?  Or is there a fine distinction to be made regarding a particular point?  You are invited to leave your comments; please, however, be respectful of other readers.

And last, a caveat:  flukes, asymmetries, and twists of fate may suggest more about Curt than about any foreign culture under discussion.

What are some of Curt Veeneman’s musical activities?

As a composer, Curt has spoken and/or his works have been performed throughout the United States, in Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Bulgaria.  He is the winner of several awards, including the ASCAP-Hubbell Award for composition.

Curt Veeneman's compositions include Les Cloches, inspired by the life of Joan of Arc (premièred by the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra), The Wiry Concord for 5-string banjo, dulcimer, cimbalom, harp, harpsichord, piano, viola and percussion (available on Capstone Records), Mountain Thyme, based on Bulgarian folk music (recorded by the Sofia Symphony Orchestra), Alcuin's Riddle, for orchestra and 15 soloists who cross the “audience-river,” Hommage for voice, flute, 'cello, piano, and percussion, Windmills, computer music featuring sampled wind turbines on California's Altamont Pass, and Pneuma for solo flute, (also available on Capstone Records).

Of this last work, the following comments have been made:  “J’ai beaucoup apprécié le lyrisme et la rigueur de Pneuma pour flûte de Curt Veeneman”  (I greatly appreciate the lyricism and the precision of Curt Veeneman’s Pneuma for flute) —Gérard Condé, Le Monde, Paris, 29 August 1996; “a well written piece”  — Robert Dick, flutist, author of The Other Flute; “it is quite exciting!” — Molly Alicia Barth of eighth blackbird; and “strong and imaginative” — Jules Langert, San Francisco Classical Voice, 13 March 2006.

As a new music promoter, he directed the new music ensemble Sonor Borealis at University of Alberta, Canada, and founded and directed the concert series, PACIFIC MARKET: Fresh Music From Around The World, at the University of the Pacific.  As a performer, Curt Veeneman is recorded on Music and Arts.

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