Bach’s Coffee Cantata

Before the social euphoria lived in modern times in cafes such as Café Kranzler (1834)in Berlin, the glamorous Maxim in Paris (1893), the exotic Brasileira (1905) in Lisbon or the Astoria (1932) in Oporto, in the early eighteenth century, in Leipzig, a place of artistic and musical conviviality was created. The Zimmermann Café (1715) was a place where artists and intellectuals met to share recent compositions or ideas and to have aesthetic discussions.  But it was also a place for reading musical repertoire (almost always at first sight), thus promoting true musical dialogues. Throughout the XVIII century, the musica da camera becomes music in the Café, just like ideas circulate beyond the courts and academies, aiming a wide diffusion inspired by the Enlightenment thoughts. Far from the ceremonial court, this music appears around a table like a conversation.

Clearly engaged with musical production and practice, Zimmermann hosted an instrumental ensemble directed by G. Ph. Telemann in his coffehouse, the Collegium Musicum (1681-1767). In this context, this composer writes his collection Tafelmusik (1733) which comprises several musical genres to be executed by different instrumental formations. In 1735, this ensemble happens to be directed by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) to whom Zimmermann orders a Coffee Cantata. Exotic and new, coffee has produced changes in eating or social habits of the Europeans and, because of its stimulating nature, consumption by women was not advisable.

Women only entered Zimmermann Coffeehouse to attend concerts, their presence was discourage at other times. However, Lieschen has a bold attitude in Bach’s cantata when, under the obligation to marry, she states that she will only accept someone who allows her to consume coffee regularly.

This cantata transports us to the artistic and recreational environment of this XVIII century coffeehouse, evoking the importance of such places in the history of different cities, different people, different ideas since then.

Catarina Costa e Silva



19th May, Saturday

Café Astória, Hotel Intercontinental
Bach’s Coffee Cantata ⋅ ESMAE’s Early Music Degree