The Bachhaus has an important collection of musical instruments. Four of these, including a fretted clavichord from around 1690, were donated by the Leipzig collector and dealer in music supplies Paul de Wit to the Bachhaus for its opening in 1907. The size of the collection was significantly expanded in 1910 by the donation of 154 instruments by Aloys Obrist.
Today the collection encompasses over 400 instruments, including a Thuringian house organ dating from 1650, a seven-stringed viola da gamba (Leipzig 1725, made by the instrument builder Johann Christian Hoffmann, who was a friend of Bach’s), a five-string violoncello piccolo (North Bohemia, ca. 1750) and a viola d’amore with six playing strings and six resonating strings (Vienna, ca. 1700), plus a Thuringian harpsichord dating from 1715, a harpsichord made by Jacob Hartmann (ca. 1765), two spinets by Johann Heinrich Silbermann (1765) and an unfretted pedal clavichord (around 1815).
Some instruments are still played for all visitors today, in keeping with the motto of Conrad Freyse, director of the Bachhaus from 1923 to 1964: “In the Bachhaus, music should never be silent”. The instrument store can be opened up to accompanied study groups by prior arrangement.
Fretted clavichord, Saxon design, ca. 1690. Donated by Paul de Wit, 1907. Photo: Ulrich Kneise; photo at top: Constantin Beyer.