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Thomaskantor of Thomanerchor
Thomaskirche Leipzig (1749) Foto H.-P.Haack bearbeitet.jpg
Gotthold Schwarz

since 2015
Type Director of music
Reports to Leipzig
Formation1518 (1518)
First holder Georg Rhau

Thomaskantor (Cantor at St. Thomas) is the common name for the musical director of the Thomanerchor , now an internationally known boys' choir founded in Leipzig in 1212. The official historic title of the Thomaskantor in Latin, Cantor et Director Musices, describes the two functions of cantor and director. As the cantor, he prepared the choir for service in four Lutheran churches, Thomaskirche (St. Thomas), Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas), Neue Kirche (New Church) and Peterskirche (St. Peter). As director, he organized music for city functions such as town council elections and homages. Functions related to the university took place at the Paulinerkirche. Johann Sebastian Bach was the most famous Thomaskantor, from 1723 to 1750.



Leipzig has had a university dating back to 1409, and is a commercial center, hosting a trade fair first mentioned in 1165. It has been mostly Lutheran since the Reformation. The position of Thomaskantor at Bach's time has been described as "one of the most respected and influential musical offices of Protestant Germany. [1]

The readings and required music of the Lutheran services in Leipzig were regulated in detail. The Church Book (Complete Church / Book / Containing / The Gospels and Epistles / For Every Feast-, Sun-, and Apostle Day Of the Entire Year ...) lists the prescribed readings, repeated every year. [2] The church year began with the First Sunday in Advent and was divided in feast days, fasting periods and the feast-less time after Trinity Sunday. For music, there was mainly no concert music such as a cantata during the fasting times of Advent and Lent. Modest music was performed during the second half of the church year, and rich music with more complex instrumentation and more services per day on feast days. Christmas, Easter and Pentecost were celebrated for three days each, and many other feast days were observed. [3] The library of St. Thomas contained works in vocal polyphony from the fifteenth century onward. [4]

The Thomaskantor reported to the city council, the rector of the Thomasschule and the church superintendent. [5] He had the duty to prepare the choir for service in the city's four Lutheran churches: [6] the main churches Thomaskirche (St. Thomas) and the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas), [7] and also the Neue Kirche (New Church) and the Peterskirche (St. Peter). [8] [9]

As cantor, the Thomaskantor had to compose and take care of copying, rehearsals and performances. [10] He also had to teach music and general subjects. [6] He took part in the admission process for new students to the school. [11] The choir was divided in groups: the most advanced singers performed a cantata every Sunday, alternating between St. Thomas and St. Nicholas, a second group sang at the other church, beginners on feast days at the smaller churches. On high holidays, the cantata was performed in both churches, a morning service in one and a vespers service in the other. To earn additional funding, the choir performed also for weddings and funerals. [12]

As director of music, the Thomaskantor was Leipzig's "senior musician", responsible for the music on official occasions such as town council elections and homages. [6] Functions related to the university took place at the Paulinerkirche.

Today, the Thomaskantor leads the music in services at the Thomaskirche, including weekly afternoon services called Motette which often contain a Bach cantata. He also conducts the choir in recordings and on tours.

Known holders of the position

The following table shows the names of the known people in the position, and their time of service, in chronological order from the Reformation to now.

No.No. after BachImageNameTenureBornDiedNotes
1 Georg Rhau.jpg Georg Rhau 1518–1520
2 Johannes Galliculus 1520–1525
3 Valerian Hüffeler 1526–1530
4 Johannes Hermann 1531–1536
5 Wolfgang Jünger 1536–1539
6 Johannes Bruckner 1539–1540
7 Ulrich Lange 1540–1549
8 Wolfgang Figulus 1549–1551
9 Melchior Heger 1553–1564
10 Valentin Otto 1564–1594
11 Calvisius.jpg Sethus Calvisius 1594–1615
12 Johann Hermann Schein.png Johann Hermann Schein 1615–1630
13 Tobias Michael 1631–1657
14 Sebastian Knüpfer 1657–1676
15 Johann Schelle 1677–1701
16 Johann Kuhnau.jpg Johann Kuhnau 1701–1722
17 Johann Sebastian Bach 1746.jpg Johann Sebastian Bach 1723–1750
181 Johann Gottlob Harrer 1750–1755
192 Johann Friedrich Doles.JPEG Johann Friedrich Doles 1756–1789Longest-serving in the role.
203 Johann Adam Hiller.jpg Johann Adam Hiller 1789–18011781–1785 Gewandhauskapellmeister
214 August Eberhard Muller.JPEG August Eberhard Müller 1801–18101810–1817 Großherzoglich-Sächsischer Hofkapellmeister
225 Johann Gottfried Schicht.jpg Johann Gottfried Schicht 1810–1823
236 Christian Theodor Weinlig 1823–18421814–1817 Kreuzkantor
247 Moritz Hauptmann.jpg Moritz Hauptmann 1842–1868
258 EFE Richter.jpg Ernst Friedrich Richter 1868–1879
269 Wilhelm Rust 1885.jpg Wilhelm Rust 1880–1892
2710 Gustav Schreck.jpg Gustav Schreck 1893–1918
2811 Karl straube.jpg Karl Straube 1918–1939
2912 Fotothek df roe-neg 0002787 003 Podium der Bachfeier, Gunther Ramin im Vordergrund.jpg Günther Ramin 1939–1956
3013 Kurt Thomas.gif Kurt Thomas 1957–1960
3114 Erhard Mauersberger 1961–1972
3215 Hans-Joachim Rotzsch 1972–1991
3316 Georg Christoph Biller 1992–2015
3417 Gotthold Schwarz am 20. Dezember 2015 in der Thomaskirche.JPG Gotthold Schwarz 2016–

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  1. Wolff 1991, p. 8.
  2. Petzoldt 2013, p. 1.
  3. Petzoldt 2013, p. 5–6.
  4. Wolff 1991, p. 93.
  5. Wolff 1991, p. 38.
  6. 1 2 3 Wolff 1991, p. 30.
  7. Dürr 1971, p. 219.
  8. Peter 2015.
  9. Wolff 2002, p. 251–252.
  10. Wolff 1991, p. 39.
  11. Wolff 2002, p. 247.
  12. Wolff 2002, p. 246.