(Eleonore d’Esmier, Duchess of Wilhemsburg, French born wife of the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg-Celle tells of the Court’s influence on the young Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical development.)
My husband is George Wilhelm, the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg. I recently married this great man and I now make my home here in Germany. You see, I am originally from France. In fact, I hail from the most famous of all courts in France, the court of Louis XIV. This is not only one of the most magnificent of courts in all Europe, but it is the court that all lesser courts seek to copy. All over Germany, counts, dukes, and other nobles are trying to recreate the lifestyle and grandeur of the Sun King’s Court.
With that goal in mind, my husband has decided we will create our own little French court in Celle, just south of Luneburg. Since I am French, however, we have a great advantage over other courts trying to become the Versailles of Germany because I really know what the Sun King’s court is like. Therefore, we speak French at the court of Celle and we have even hired an orchestra of French musicians to make music for us. We also play the great keyboard music by all the best and most fashionable French keyboard composers like Couperin and de Grigny. My generous husband has created such a lovely French court that I feel like I am “at home.”
Quite often, students from Luneburg make the trip to Celle to hear our French music and take in our French culture here in this more heathen part of northern Germany. The other day, I met one incredibly talented young man, a Herr Johann Sebastian Bach. He was so enamored with our “French culture” that he has been copying the music of our great keyboard masters like mad. Why I hear he has even composed an organ piece after one of Francois Couperin’s harpsichord pieces. He calls it “Air” and it is really quite charming although quite difficult for the organists to play.
I overheard this young composer tell his friend, our music director Thomas de la Salle, that he was leaving St. Michaels in Luneburg to pursue his musical career. He is so young, only 17 I believe, but I guess that is all the schooling this young man named Johann Sebastian Bach needs. His incredible talent certainly proves that.
(This story and the images are from the organ and multi-media and event, Bach and Sons, presented by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist with media artist, David Jordan. Visit bachandsons.org to discover more.)