Leopold (Anhalt-Koethen)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Koethen in armor. His chamber moor holds the ermine coat

Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen (born November 29, 1694 in Köthen ; † November 19, 1728 ibid) was the ruling Prince of Anhalt-Köthen from the house of the Askanians . He went down in history as a sponsor and lifelong friend of Johann Sebastian Bach .



Leopold was the second son of Prince Emanuel Lebrecht von Anhalt-Köthen and his morganatic wife Gisela Agnes von Rath . In 1698 all male descendants were officially recognized by the Anhalt princes and in 1699 by the imperial confirmation. Of his five siblings, only his brother and successor August Ludwig and his sister Princess Christiane Charlotte survived .

Early years

Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Koethen

Leopold's father died in 1704, whereby his mother, as regent, had a decisive influence on the upbringing of the only ten-year-old boy. The paternal testament appointed the strictly Lutheran princess as guardian , but King Friedrich I of Prussia as chief guardian . The guardianship preferred a reformed education Leopold, who previously by his mother Lutheran had been brought up, and certain therefore that the future prince of the I. Friedrich founded new Ritterakademie in Dom Brandenburg should visit, and so Leopold went from 1708 to 1710 there. In November 1708 the great festival opera "Alexanders and Roxanen Heyrath" by Augustin Reinhard Stricker took place at the Berlin court , in which Leopold took part as a dancer.

Cavalier tour

On October 9, 1710, Leopold began his cavalier tour . Here he was accompanied by the Lutheran Christoph Jobst Zanthier , "since no suitable Reformed companion could be found". It is obvious that his mother had made little effort to find one. His journey took him to The Hague in the winter of 1710/11 , where he visited the opera a total of twelve times in just four months , thus revealing his love for music. He was particularly impressed by the works of Jean-Baptiste Lully , and he acquired a “rare opera by Mr. Lully that printed music” . Leopold himself played the harpsichord and violin .

After Leopold's return in 1711, Friedrich I wanted to commit him to a "commanding generals" , but Leopold's mother showed her displeasure and so the king withdrew his proposal. Instead, Leopold traveled to England and attended the Opera in London and Oxford University , where he was particularly interested in the library .

He then traveled to Italy via Holland, Frankfurt am Main and Augsburg . In Venice he spent 130 thalers on opera visits alone . A violin master, presumably Johann David Heinichen , was hired for a month in Rome . This probably accompanied the Koethen travel company during their further time in Italy. A visit to Florence was followed by Turin and nine days later Vienna . There he acquired the “Book with 12 Cantatas” from Francesco Mancini . On April 17, 1713, Leopold returned to Koethen. His expenses totaled 55,749 thalers. The debate that had arisen due to the high costs was ended by Leopold's decision to found the Köthener Hofmusik and to bear half of the costs himself. Thanks to the dissolution of the Berlin court orchestra in 1713, excellent musicians were available to him. In 1714, the opera composer Augustin Reinhard Stricker , whom Leopold knew from his time in Berlin, was appointed the first conductor of the new court orchestra .


On November 30th, 1715 Leopold had reached his "vogtable" year and on May 14th, 1716 he received the hereditary and state tributes in the castle and town hall. His mother, who ruled as regent from 1704 to 1715, retired to her widow's residence at Schloss Nienburg in Nienburg (Saale) . The first problems were already waiting for the young prince. Because of the Primogeniture introduced in Anhalt-Köthen in 1702 , he had to accept his younger brother August Ludwig . This received that as an exclave beyond Güsten , in 1547 from Georg III. built Warmsdorf Castle and the Warmsdorf region with all income (in 1715/1716 it was 9,893, previously 13,094 thalers) as well as other concessions.

Not long after his accession to the throne, the 22-year-old Leopold offered Johann Sebastian Bach the post of conductor of his court orchestra. It can be assumed that Leopold had known the composer since his sister's wedding on January 24, 1716, when Bach appeared in Nienburg in the entourage of Duke Ernst August I of Weimar . The previous Hofkapellmeister Stricker left Köthen at the beginning of 1717 and on August 5, 1717 Bach signed the contract with Köthen. However, since he had failed to ask for release in Weimar, he was arrested there for a short time and was therefore only able to take up his position in Köthen as Striker's successor at the beginning of 1718.

Thanks to the young Prince, who was interested in music and who was also a violinist in the orchestra at times, the years in Köthen were extremely productive for Johann Sebastian Bach. In addition to the secular cantata of Serene Leopold (BWV 173a) dedicated to his patron, numerous instrumental works, concerts, several of the Brandenburg Concerts , Part I of the Well-Tempered Clavier and several orchestral suites were created here . Prince Leopold was the godfather of Bach's son Leopold August, who died early, and remained on friendly terms with the composer even after his departure in 1723.

In the period that followed, there were repeated disputes between Leopold and his brother August Ludwig in distant Warmsdorf, as well as with his mother in Nienburg. In 1718 (or 1719), for example, Leopold sent armed men to both places to have his coat of arms affixed there. However, his mother immediately had her son's coat of arms removed. In 1721, Leopold responded to the humiliation he had suffered with further troops who marched to Nienburg, reassembled Köthen's coat of arms and arrested the local lawyer Johann Jacob Langemach . The army was also sent to the Warmsdorf exclave on the other side of Anhalt-Bernburg , but belonging to Köthen, to arrest five judges who had officiated there on behalf of his brother. In August 1722 the brothers reached an agreement, but the mother was not part of the settlement.

Prince Leopold played the violin for the last time on November 17, 1728 and died two days later at the age of 33. In the absence of a male descendant, his only son, Hereditary Prince Emanuel Ludwig died shortly before him, Leopold's brother August Ludwig succeeded him.

One day after Leopold's burial on March 23, 1729 in the princely crypt of St. Jakob's Church , Bach performed his funeral cantata Klagt, Kinder, Klagen es der Welt , the so-called Köthener Funeral Music (BWV 244a) as part of a memorial service for the deceased sovereign in the Jakobskirche on. For this occasional work, Bach used, among other things, nine movements from the St. Matthew Passion , which is probably just being created . Only the text has survived in the original, but a reconstruction of the music was premiered in 2010 at the same location.


For the Principality of Anhalt-Köthen , the re-establishment of court music in 1714, first under Augustin Reinhard Stricker and then under Bach, was a significant cultural enrichment. We owe the majority of Bach's secular music to his creative time in Köthen.

Furthermore, in 1718, together with August Ludwig, the palace library was re-established as the Bibliotheque publique , but initially only had a modest volume of 190 volumes.

Under Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen, the remodeling of the Köthen palace garden in the baroque style began in 1724. The construction of an important orangery and the erection of a splendid orangery building fall during this time.

Leopold had Burgstrasse renewed and Wallstrasse in Köthen laid out from scratch, where he made a new house available to his Kapellmeister JS Bach.

In 1723 an orphanage was opened in Köthen with the support of the prince.

The Köthener Leopoldstrasse is named after him.

Garden art

Since 1714, Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen tried to build a high quality orangery stock for the Köthener Residenzgarten - today's palace garden, which was founded by Ludwig von Anhalt-Köthen around 1606. From 1720 a new garden quarter was created here, in which citrus and other potted plants were placed. The magnificent orangery designed by the architect Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt the Elder was also built by around 1728 .

Marriages and offspring

In December 1721 Prince Leopold married Princess Friederike Henriette von Anhalt-Bernburg (1702–1723) for the first time. The two had a daughter together:

The choice of name was interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation towards his mother.

After the death of his first wife, Leopold married Princess Charlotte Friederike von Nassau-Siegen (1702–1785) in 1725 . He had two children with her, both of whom died early:

  • Hereditary Prince Emanuel Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen (1726–1728)
  • Princess Leopoldina Charlotte of Anhalt-Köthen (1727–1728)


  • Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen: travel diary (written in the Historical Museum, Köthen Castle)
  • Hermann Laundry : Anhalt history , 3 volumes, Cöthen: Schulze, 1912/13
  • Christine Siegert: Florentine music culture at the time of the visit of Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen , in: Cöthener Bach Hefte 12 (2004). ISBN 3-910017-08-8 .
  • NDB 11, 317 and 14, 268.
  • Michael Karkosch : “The fruitful pleasure garden in Köthen and the Anhalt orangery culture”, in: Die Gartenkunst 2/2010, pp. 177–207. ISSN  0935-0519 .


  1. 400 years of garden art in Köthen , accessed on March 8, 2011
predecessor Office successor
Emanuel Lebrecht Prince of Anhalt-Köthen
1704 - 1728
August Ludwig