Bach at Leipzig A Play

Itamar Moses; With a preface by Tom Stoppard

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

128 Pages



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Leipzig, Germany, 1722: Johann Kuhnau, revered organist of the Thomaskirche, suddenly dies, leaving his post vacant. In an age where musicians depend on patronage from the nobility or the church to pursue their craft, the post at Thomaskirche in the cultured city of Leipzig is a near guarantee of fame and fortune. In order to fill the position, the city council invites a small number of musicians to audition for the seat, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Based on actual persons and events, Bach at Leipzig imagines how six little-known musicians resort to bribery, blackmail, and betrayal in an attempt to secure the most coveted musical post in all of Europe. "An irresistible comic mix of high wit, low ribaldry and rich characterization" (Neil Novelli, The [Syracuse] Post-Standard), the play explores the depths to which some will sink to pursue their calling in a subtly crafted farce that simultaneously confronts profound questions about humanity, God, and art.


Praise for Bach at Leipzig

"The erudite young Moses [is] a clearly gifted writer."—Misha Berson, The Seattle Times
"A remarkably silly yet intellectually stirring comedy . . . Reaches for an ineffable beauty and mystery that is hard to shake."—Tom Keogh, Queen Anne News
"Itamar Moses's brainy comedy doesn't settle for cheap laughs, though it has a lot of them. He's got more—much more—on his mind . . . a look at pride, the meaning and duties of talent, and deep, discursive ruminations on whether music and people can—or should—evolve without spiritual faith."—Steve Wiecking, Seattle Weekly
"The most substantial play based on classical music since Peter Shaffer's Amadeus . . . [Moses] has taken a single moment of history . . . and from it spins a tale of competition, intrigue, betrayal, folly, and an overwhelming passion for music. Moses's most impressive achievement here is the perfect balance between the serious stuff of this play—human ambitions and inevitable shortcomings—and its medium, splendid comedy frothing at every level[, and] it is Bach at Leipzig's deft structure, continual plot surprises, emotional accuracy, and delicious and unstinting humor that will captivate future audiences."—Barbara Adams, Ithaca Times
"Brilliant . . . Moses reveals a remarkable ability to make a complex, intellectual play, poking fun at the emerging Age of Enlightenment with the feather-light touch of a modern Moliére."—Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)
"An artistic and cerebral triumph . . . for Moses and contemporary theater as a whole."—Lacey Sadoff, Marquette Tribune

"Dazzles with its range . . . [Bach at Leipzig] swerves from clever wordplay to comic swordplay [and] invites a comparison to Stoppard's contemporary work."—Damien Jacques, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[A] dizzyingly ornate performance—with performance as one of its central tropes. Its premise is an actual, if obscure, historical incident: a 1722 competition among Germany's greatest organists to replace Johann Kuhnau at Leipzig's Thomaskirche. Not only must the half-dozen musicians, all named either Georg or Johann, participate in an audition, but they also find themselves performing for one another: donning disguises, striking deals, experimenting with bribery, fraud, and blackmail. In the end, it all proves futile, but not until Moses has mocked the conventions of playwriting and peppered us with a fusillade of puns, witticisms, and sight gags."—Julia M. Klein, The Chronicle of Higher Education

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Bach at Leipzig
Act OneCast of CharactersJOHANN FRIEDRICH FASCH, organist, and Kapellmeister at Zerbst, fifties.GEORG BALTHASAR SCHOTT, organist at the Neuekirche in Leipzig, fifties.GEORG LENCK, organist, and Kantor at Laucha, late thirties.JOHANN MARTIN STEINDORFF, organist, and Kantor at Zwickau, twenties.GEORG FRIEDRICH KAUFMANN, organist, and Kantor at Merseburg, fifties.JOHANN CHRISTOPH GRAUPNER, organist, and Kapellmeister at Darmstadt, fifties.THE GREATEST ORGANIST IN GERMANY, organist, and Kantor at Hamburg. 
SETTING: The Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany, 1722. Later, 1750. 
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  • Itamar Moses; With a preface by Tom Stoppard

  • Itamar Moses is the author of seven full-length plays, including Bach at Leipzig, and various short plays and one-acts.  He was named Best Young Playright of the Year by The Wall Street Journal (2008).  His work has been produced in the United States and Canada.  He has taught playwriting at both Yale and New York University.  A member of the Dramatists Guild, MCC Playwrights' Coalition, and the New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspects, Moses now lives in Brooklyn.