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

since 2015
TypeDirector of music
Reports toLeipzig
Formation1518 (1518)
First holderGeorg 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 Bach Image Name Tenure Born Died Notes
1 Georg Rhau.jpg Georg Rhau 1518-1520 c. 1488
in Eisfeld

in Wittenberg
2 Johannes Galliculus 1520-1525 c. 1490
in Dresden
c. 1550
in Leipzig
3 Valerian Hüffeler 1526-1530
4 Johannes Hermann 1531-1536 1515
in Zittau
22 April 1593
in Freiberg
5 Wolfgang Jünger 1536-1539 c. 1517
in Sayda
4 March 1564
in Großschirma
6 Johannes Bruckner 1539-1540
7 Ulrich Lange 1540-1549 1549
in Leipzig
8 Wolfgang Figulus 1549-1551 c. 1525
in Naumburg
in Meißen
9 Melchior Heger 1553-1564 in Brüx (today Most)
10 Valentin Otto 1564-1594 1529
in Markkleeberg
April 1594
11 Calvisius.jpg Sethus Calvisius 1594-1615
in Gorsleben
24 November 1615
in Leipzig
12 Johann Hermann Schein.png Johann Hermann Schein 1615-1630 20 January 1586
in Grünhain

in Leipzig
13 Tobias Michael 1631-1657 13 June 1592
in Dresden
26 June 1657
in Leipzig
14 Sebastian Knüpfer 1657-1676 6 September 1633
in Asch
10 October 1676
in Leipzig
15 Johann Schelle 1677-1701 6 September 1648
in Geising
10 March 1701
in Leipzig
16 Johann Kuhnau.jpg Johann Kuhnau 1701-1722 6 April 1660
in Geising
5 June 1722
in Leipzig
17 Johann Sebastian Bach 1746.jpg Johann Sebastian Bach 1723-1750 21 March 1685
in Eisenach
28 July 1750
in Leipzig
18 1 Johann Gottlob Harrer 1750-1755 1703
in Görlitz
9 July 1755
in Karlsbad
19 2 Johann Friedrich Doles.JPEG Johann Friedrich Doles 1756-1789 23 April 1715
in Steinbach-Hallenberg
8 February 1797
in Leipzig
Longest-serving in the role.
20 3 Johann Adam Hiller.jpg Johann Adam Hiller 1789-1801 25 December 1728
in Wendisch-Ossig
16 June 1804
in Leipzig
1781-1785 Gewandhauskapellmeister
21 4 August Eberhard Müller.JPEG August Eberhard Müller 1801-1810 13 December 1767
in Northeim
3 December 1817
in Weimar
1810-1817 Großherzoglich-Sächsischer Hofkapellmeister
22 5 Johann Gottfried Schicht.jpg Johann Gottfried Schicht 1810-1823 29 September 1753
in Reichenau
16 February 1823
in Leipzig
23 6 Christian Theodor Weinlig 1823-1842 25 July 1780
in Dresden
7 March 1842
in Leipzig
1814-1817 Kreuzkantor
24 7 Moritz Hauptmann.jpg Moritz Hauptmann 1842-1868 13 October 1792
in Dresden
3 January 1868
in Leipzig
25 8 EFE Richter.jpg Ernst Friedrich Richter 1868-1879 24 October 1808
in Großschönau
9 April 1879
in Leipzig
26 9 Wilhelm Rust 1885.jpg Wilhelm Rust 1880-1892 15 August 1822
in Dessau
2 May 1892
in Leipzig
27 10 Gustav Schreck.jpg Gustav Schreck 1893-1918 8 September 1849
in Zeulenroda
22 January 1918
in Leipzig
28 11 Karl straube.jpg Karl Straube 1918-1939 6 January 1873
in Berlin
27 April 1950
in Leipzig
29 12 Fotothek df roe-neg 0002787 003 Podium der Bachfeier, Günther Ramin im Vordergrund.jpg Günther Ramin 1939-1956 15 October 1898
in Karlsruhe
27 February 1956
in Leipzig
30 13 Kurt Thomas.gif Kurt Thomas 1957-1960 25 May 1904
in Tönning
31 March 1973
in Bad Oeynhausen
31 14 1961-1972 29 December 1903
in Mauersberg / Marienberg

in Leipzig
32 15 Hans-Joachim Rotzsch 1972-1991 25 April 1929
in Leipzig
24 Sept. 2013
in Leipzig
33 16 Georg Christoph Biller 1992-2015
in Nebra
34 17 Gotthold Schwarz am 20. Dezember 2015 in der Thomaskirche.JPG Gotthold Schwarz 2016-
in Zwickau


  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. ^ a b c 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.


  • Dürr, Alfred (1971). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1. Bärenreiter-Verlag. OCLC 523584.
  • Petzoldt, Martin (2013). "Liturgy and Music in Leipzig's Main Churches" (PDF) (in German).
  • Wolff, Christoph (1991). Bach: Essays on His Life and Music. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05926-9.
  • Wolff, Christoph (2002). Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-32256-9.
  • "Peterskirche Leipzig / Geschichte" (in German). St. Peter, Leipzig. 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  • Stefan Altner: Das Thomaskantorat im 19. Jahrhundert. Bewerber und Kandidaten für das Leipziger Thomaskantorat in den Jahren 1842 bis 1918. Quellenstudien zur Entwicklung des Thomaskantorats und des Thomanerchors vom Wegfall der öffentlichen Singumgänge 1837 bis zur ersten Auslandsreise 1920. Passage-Verlag, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-938543-15-9.
  • Johann Gottfried Stallbaum: Über den innern Zusammenhang musikalischer Bildung der Jugend mit dem Gesammtzwecke des Gymnasiums. Eine Inauguralrede, nebst biographischen Nachrichten über die Cantoren an der Thomasschule zu Leipzig. Fritzsche, Leipzig 1842.

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