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Logo Thomanerchor.svg
Seat: Leipzig / Germany
Carrier: City of Leipzig
Founding: 1212
Genus: Boys' choir
Head : Gotthold black
Voices : 89 ( SATB )
Website :

The St. Thomas Boys Choir is a worldwide known boys' choir from Leipzig with a choral tradition going back more than 800 years. It was founded in 1212 together with the Thomas School and, after the Aachen Cathedral Choir , the Regensburger Domspatzen and the Stadtsingechor zu Halle, is one of the four oldest boys' choirs in Germany and Europe . At that time he belonged to the Augustinian Canons of St. Thomas Monastery in Leipzig. The later St. Thomas Church was given to the monastery as a collegiate church in 1213 . The fame of the St. Thomas Choir as one of the oldest choirs is also based on the St. Thomas Choir , which was filled by many well-known musicians and composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach from 1723 . The choir consists of 93 boys aged 9 to 18 years. The Thomaner live in the boarding school , the Thomasalumnat , and attend the aforementioned Thomas School , a grammar school with a linguistic profile and in-depth musical training.


From the foundation to the Reformation

On March 20, 1212 Otto IV. Sealed the foundation charter of the Augustinian Canons of St. Thomas

The monastery of St. Thomas was founded in 1212 by Dietrich the distressed. A document sealed by Emperor Otto IV on March 20, 1212 at the Frankfurt Reichstag confirms the foundation. Since then, this date has been considered the day the choir was founded. To pin belonged to a convent school , the spiritual offspring should train. The admitted boys lived in the monastery and, in return, had to perform liturgical chanting and other worship services. Furthermore, they had to bring in income from the Kurrendeumgang to their care. Until the Reformation, the number of choir students was limited to 24. From 1254 there is also evidence of a scola exterior , which was accessible to the children of wealthy Leipzig citizens for a school fee. Therefore, the Thomas School is Germany's oldest public school.

Little is known about everyday school life at the time. A Latin textbook , the Paedologia , which was written for the Thomas School, shows that the pauperes , the poor choir students, couldn't have fared too well. In addition to church service and caroling, they were forced to sing or do household chores on various occasions in order to support themselves.

The most important testimony to the musical work of the choirboys before the Reformation is probably the St. Thomas Gradual (around 1300). This is a codex of medieval chorale manuscripts that contains a compilation of 88 sequences as well as all the chants for the high offices . The manuscript, which presumably originated in the Thomas Monastery, has been proven to have been in use for at least two hundred years. With a new cover, a compendium of music theory was also added in 1533 . It provides information about the demands placed on the choir students. From the middle of the 14th century, foundation deeds for masses and altars, which explicitly require the participation of choir students, testify that the Thomaner not only sang in St. Thomas, but also performed services in the Nikolaikirche . In addition to singing the Gregorian chant in everyday life, as well as for festive processions and church official acts, figural music also became increasingly important. Since 1479, the city council has maintained an ensemble of city ​​whistlers who played music together with the St. Thomas Church at festive services.

After the death of Duke George , his brother Heinrich took over the business of government and initiated the Reformation in the duchy in 1539. On this occasion, Martin Luther preached on Pentecost Sunday from the pulpit of the St. Thomas Church . With the spread of the new doctrine, the secularization of the monasteries began. All the property of the Thomasstift went to the city and the canons who had not yet fled the city were compensated with a pension by the council and left the monastery in 1543. In that year the dismantling of the monastery buildings began. With the secularization, the school and the alumni were also managed by the city council. This makes the St. Thomas' Choir the oldest cultural institution in Leipzig.

Cantor council

The first great artistic personality mentioned in connection with the monastery is the minstrel Heinrich von Morungen . He spent the last years of his life in the Thomasstift and was buried in the Thomaskirche after his death in 1222. However, it is not known whether he took over the function of Cantor .

The term Cantor initially only referred to the lead singer who had to initiate and lead the Gregorian chant. He was also expected to teach the students. It is not known whether the early cantors, who were selected from the ranks of the canons, also directed the figural music. It is likely that they handed this task over to succentores (lower cantors).

Georg Rhau , although Thomaskantor for only two years (from 1519 to 1520), left clear traces in Leipzig. This may have something to do with the fact that the dispute between the theologians Martin Luther , Andreas Bodenstein (Karlstadt) and Johannes Eck , the Leipzig disputation , took place during his term of office . Under his leadership, the Thomaner opened the meeting of the great theologians on June 27, 1519 with a service in the Thomaskirche. The twelve-part Missa de sancto spiritu was performed, which presumably came from Rhaus's pen. The disputation was held in the Pleißenburg after the choir sang the motet Veni, sancte spiritus there . At the closing ceremony of the talks on July 15, Rhau had the boys (with the help of the town pipers) sing a Te Deum laudamus . None of the works have survived.

From the Reformation to the time of Bach

After the Reformation, the field of activity for choir students did not change. As before, they sang at regular church services and at casuals (weddings, baptisms and funerals). The repertoire has grown thanks to the Thomaskantors' own compositions as well as copies and purchases of printed music and is relatively well documented. Ulrich Lange (Thomaskantor from 1540 to 1549), for example, bought anthologies of the works of Josquin Desprez , Jacob Obrecht , Heinrich Isaac and Adrian Willaert a . a. His successors added works by Orlando di Lasso . A collective manuscript that was written between 1553 and 1560 is remarkable. It contains numerous masses, motets and hymns by various composers, most of which are not named. Musicologists identified some of the works as the creations of musicians such as Ludwig Senfl , Josquin des Prez, Johann Walter , Heinrich Isaac, Thomas Stoltzer and others. a.

The Thomas School was damaged in 1546 by parts of a collapsing tower of the city fortifications. In 1553 the old building was demolished and a new one was built. This was done with the great help of the Leipzig citizens, who contributed through donations or labor. In this new building there was space for the classrooms as well as the rooms of the alumni and the apartment for the rector and cantor.

The Thomanerchor in Bach's time

During Johann Sebastian Bach's lifetime, the St. Thomas' Choir consisted of around 55 students, who were divided into four choirs, together with the town pipers and some artistic violinists, who had to provide the church music in the Nikolaikirche, Thomaskirche, New Church and St. Peter's and St. In addition to the singing parts, the students also performed as strings. According to recent research by Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott , the choir parts in concert works were usually one or two-fold. Bach's own works were mainly carried out by the first choir. The repertoire of the other choirs, which were under the direction of prefects, consisted of easier cantatas and motets by other composers. The fourth choir group limited itself to simple song sets. On the weekdays the students were divided into 6 weekly choirs of 8 singers each , who sang alternately in the St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Church during the early morning services. These choirs were led by choir prefects from the harpsichord . A double bass was added to support the bass. On the program were generally motets from the Florilegium Portense of Erhard Bodenschatz . This consisted mainly of eight-part Latin motets and was published in nine part books (with a figured bass part).

Development until 1920

After the death of Bach, the most famous Thomaskantor, important personalities such as Johann Friedrich Doles , Johann Adam Hiller and Moritz Hauptmann followed . Towards the end of the 19th century, the St. Thomas School next to the St. Thomas Church was demolished and the St. Thomas Choir moved to Hillerstraße in what is now Leipzig's Bachviertel .

History from 1920

Since the 1920s, the St. Thomas Choir has made successful trips abroad, some of which were initiated by the then St. Thomas Cantor Karl Straube , but initially only led through Europe.

time of the nationalsocialism

In 1937 the St. Thomas Choir was incorporated into the Hitler Youth . However, Straube and his successor Günther Ramin managed to keep National Socialist ideas as far away from the choir as possible, especially from the choir's repertoire, as Ramin in particular specialized in the choir's spiritual program early after he took office in 1939. The attempt made in 1941 to let the St. Thomas Choir in the Musisches Gymnasium Leipzig break up failed for various reasons. Towards the end of the war, Ramin tried to postpone the forced drafting into the Wehrmacht for the Thomaner as long as possible, on the grounds that otherwise the ability to sing would not be preserved. Furthermore, one of the achievements of these two cantors is the strong reworking of the stream maintenance, which was started by Straube and continued by Ramin.

Exile 1943–1945 in the Princely School Grimma

In the Allied bombing raids on Leipzig on December 4, 1943, the alumni of the St. Thomas' Choir in Hillerstraße was also badly damaged, and a bomb hit made it impossible to live in. Already on the following day - on Sunday, December 5th, 1943 - Cantor Günther Ramin and his choir found shelter in Grimma : The alumnate of the Fürstenschule zu Grimma became alternative accommodation - ultimately for 18 months. The Thomaner from Grimma - among them Reiner Süß , who talks about it in his autobiography - traveled regularly to Leipzig for their motet performances and to numerous appearances in many places in Germany.

On December 18, 1993, the Thomaner sang again in the Frauenkirche Grimma - with Bach's Christmas Oratorio they commemorated their concert in the same church with the same musical work exactly 50 years ago to the day and the year and a half when the Thomanern was home to the Mulde town.

History since 1945

Thomaner choirboys in 1953

In the times of the GDR some important recordings were made, outstandingly v. a. the recordings of Bach's cantatas under Hans-Joachim Rotzsch in the 1970s. Rotzsch resigned in 1991 after his IM work for the State Security became known. From 1992 to February 1, 2015, Georg Christoph Biller led the choir as the 16th Thomas Cantor after Bach. With the Forum Thomanum he sought to secure the future and quality of the choir in the long term and at the same time to establish the Thomasschule Leipzig as an internationally leading school with a focus on music. Gotthold Schwarz , who had already led the St. Thomas' Choir on several occasions and had not applied for the Thomaskantorat, was proposed to the Leipzig City Council as 17th Thomaskantor after Bach on May 23, 2016 after the selection process was completed and on August 20, 2016 he was accepted into introduced the office. In September 2019 it was decided to invite a girl to audition for the first time.


Traditionally, the vocal works of Johann Sebastian Bach are at the center of the choir's work . However, the repertoire touches the sacred and secular literature of practically all epochs from the Renaissance to the modern age.

The Forum Thomanum is currently being built as a meeting place in Leipzig's Bachviertel . Included in the forum are the Luther Church , St. Thomas School, boarding school, elementary school, youth hostel, kindergarten, administration building, rehearsal building and an underground gym. According to the conception of the Forum Thomanum , there should be significant changes in the education system in addition to the building projects.

In addition to its lively concert activity all over Germany (at least two major trips to Germany per year) and its trips abroad, the St. Thomas Choir is committed to the St. Thomas Church three times a week. Every Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m., the St. Thomas Choir plays the motets in St. Thomas' Church. On Sundays he sings in the service at 9:30 a.m. The St. Thomas Choir also sings at the high festivals of the Protestant church.

Historical performance practice

On March 21, 2013, a selected choir from the Thomaner made music, taking historical performance practice into account . The cast consisted of three to four voices, which, in contrast to the usual arrangement of the choir in front of the orchestra, stood on the railing. In addition, the singers sang from digital reproductions of the original manuscripts.

Life and education

The 93 members of the Thomanerchor live in the Alumnat in Leipziger Hillerstraße. They are not housed in classes, but mixed in the so-called rooms. Such a room is not just a room, but rather an administrative unit with a closed hierarchy and a clear distribution of tasks. One or more older people, the room elders, always live in one room with several younger ones . A hierarchical and educational relationship of trust is sought with this elder. Education in the St. Thomas' Choir is therefore primarily carried out by the older members and less by the local educators (inspectors on duty). It is possible that over 90 young people live under one roof and are only supervised by one of the five educators. The rooms are redistributed annually in order to maintain the age-related structure of the rooms, but also to be able to exert social influence.

In the living room there is only the kött (a lockable cupboard) and a table for everyone. In addition, there are other pieces of furniture and equipment in the rooms, such. B. Satchel cabinets, book and newspaper shelves, radios, plants and chairs. However, there are no televisions or computers in the individual rooms. A parlor consists of at least 4 rooms and a washroom with two showers. There are also two to three beds in each room.

The alumnate is also equipped with a gym, a rehearsal room and a dining room. There is also a sewing room for the concert suits, an archive, an “employee wing”, rehearsal rooms, a band room, a model train room, a fitness room, a lounge for the upper class members, a room for the “student newspaper” of the Thomanerchor (the box journal), a sauna , three libraries, a computer room with internet access, a hospital room with insulated beds, a TV room and toilets for visitors on the ground floor.



Overview under Thomaskantor

Well-known former Thomaner

   (Sort by date of birth)

Ensembles of former Thomaner




  • Thomas Schaufuß: The family book of a Thomaner: Johannes Christianus Heuckenrottius from Priesteblich (1740-1812) , Verlag Edition T. Schausfussi, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3000427428 . With a foreword by Manuel Bärwald (Bach Archive Leipzig).
  • Alfred Jentzsch (Ed.): From the history of the Thomas School in old and new times. Festschrift for the 725th school anniversary. Teubner, Leipzig 1937.
  • Heinrich Lehmann: The Thomaner on the road. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1937.
  • Horst List: From the history of the Thomanerchor. Thomanerchor, Leipzig 1953.
  • Lenka von Koerber : "We sing Bach" - The St. Thomas Choir and its cantor. New Life Publishing House, Berlin 1954.
  • Horst List: On a concert tour. A book about the journeys of the Leipzig Thomanerchor. Reich, Hamburg-Bergstedt 1957.
  • Richard Petzoldt : The Leipzig Thomanerchor. Edition Leipzig, Leipzig 1962.
  • Bernhard Knick: St. Thomas in Leipzig. School and choir. Place of work of Johann Sebastian Bach. Pictures and documents on the history of the St. Thomas School and the St. Thomas Choir with their contemporary historical relationships. With an introduction by Manfred Mezger. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 1963.
  • Eduard Crass: The Thomaner. Commented photo report on its 750-year history 1212–1962. VEB Verlag Encyclopedia, Leipzig 1962.
  • Hans-Jochim Rothe: Thomanerchor zu Leipzig, German Democratic Republic. Thomanerchor, Leipzig 1968.
  • Horst List: The St. Thomas Choir in Leipzig. German publishing house for music, Leipzig 1975.
  • Armin Schneiderheinze: The St. Thomas Choir in Leipzig. Thomanerchor, Leipzig 1982.
  • Wolfgang Hanke: The Thomaner. Union-Verlag, Berlin 1985. (first edition 1979)
  • Stefan Altner, Roland Weise: Thomanerchor Leipzig. Almanac 1. 1996, ISBN 3-98-043131-2 .
  • Gunter Hempel: Episodes about the Thomaskirche and the Thomaner. Tauchaer Verlag, Taucha 1997, ISBN 3-910074-67-7 .
  • Michael Fuchs: Methods of early diagnosis of the time of occurrence of the mutation in boy's voices. Investigations with singers of the Thomanerchor Leipzig. 1997.
  • Stefan Altner: St. Thomas Choir and St. Thomas Church. Historical and present in pictures. Tauchaer Verlag, Taucha 1998, ISBN 3-910074-84-7 .
  • Georg Christoph Biller, Stefan Altner: Thomaneralmanach 4. Contributions to the past and present of the St. Thomas Choir. Passage-Verlag, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-932900-33-2 .
  • Gert Mothes, Siegfried Stadler: The Thomaner. Passage-Verlag, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-932900-91-X .
  • Stefan Altner: The Thomaskantorat in the 19th century. Applicants and candidates for the Leipzig Thomaskantorat from 1842 to 1918. Source studies on the development of the Thomaskantorat and the St. Thomas Choir from the discontinuation of the public singing in 1837 to the first trip abroad in 1920. Passage-Verlag, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-938543-15-9 .
  • Helga Mauersberger (Ed.): Dresdner Kreuzchor and Thomanerchor Leipzig. Two cantors and their time. Rudolf and Erhard Mauersberger. Druck- und Verlagsgesellschaft Marienberg, Marienberg 2007, ISBN 978-3-931770-46-4 .
  • Stefan Altner: The Thomana and the University of Leipzig. About the beginnings of a history linked for 600 years. In: Eszter Fontana (Ed.): 600 years of music at the University of Leipzig. Studies on the occasion of the anniversary. Janos Stekovics publishing house, Wettin-Löbejün 2010, ISBN 978-3-89923-245-5 .
  • Stefan Altner, Martin Petzoldt (ed.): 800 years of Thomana. Believe - Sing - Learn. Festschrift for the anniversary of St. Thomas Church, St. Thomas Choir, St. Thomas School. Verlag Janos Stekovics, Wettin-Löbejün 2012, ISBN 978-3-89923-238-7 .
  • Michael Maul : "The famous choir". The Leipzig Thomas School and its cantors 1212–1804. Lehmstedt, Leipzig 2012, ISBN 978-3-942473-24-8 .
  • Doris Mundus: 800 years of Thomana. Pictures of the history of St. Thomas Church, St. Thomas School and St. Thomas Choir. For the exhibition Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, March 20 to June 17, 2012. Lehmstedt, Leipzig 2012, ISBN 978-3-942473-21-7 .

Web links

Commons : St. Thomas's Choir  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hanke, Wolfgang: The Thomaner. Union Verlag Berlin 1979, p. 18.
  2. Andrew Parrot: Bach's choir - to the new understanding. Baerenreiter / Metzler, 2000.
  3. ^ Arnold Schering: Johann Sebastian Bach's Leipzig Church Music.
  4. Reiner Süß: There was music in it - memories. Leipzig 2010, ISBN 978-3-937146-82-9
  5. ^ Michael Rietz: St. Thomas' Choir in the Princely School. S. 137 in: Gymnasium St. Augustin zu Grimma (ed.): From the electoral state school to the Gymnasium St. Augustin zu Grimma 1550 - 2000. Beucha 2000, ISBN 3-930076-99-3 .
  6. "We Salzburgers are not giving our Thomaskantor back." Fired seven years ago in Leipzig for working in the Stasi - celebrated at the Mozarteum in Austria. ( Memento from April 19, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Interview with Hans-Joachim Rotzsch, Leipziger Volkszeitung from June 4, 1998.
  7. Leipzig: St. Thomas Choir lets girls sing . In: Spiegel Online . September 11, 2019 ( [accessed September 12, 2019]).
  8. On Bach's 328th birthday, Die Thomaner sing a concert in historically oriented performance practice ( memento of October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Press release of March 18, 2013, City of Leipzig, Communication Unit (PDF; 68 kB).
  9. ^ Forum Kirchenmusik , Issue 5, 2013, p. 23.
  10. Gewandhaus-Magazin, Editorial of No. 74  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  11. ^ The Leipzig St. Thomas Choir. on ( Memento from February 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  12. The Thomaner. Between Bach and soccer. on  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  13. 800 years of St. Thomas' Choir. Johann Sebastian Bach's cadets. from February 15, 2012.
  14. Press release of the Standing Conference
  15. The European Church Music Prize 2014 goes to the St. Thomas Choir Leipzig. ( Memento from August 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Echo Klassik, Prize Winner 2012 ( Memento from November 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  17. ^ Press Club Hannover: Leibniz-Ring-Hannover 2012. ( Memento of October 2, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Press release of May 25, 2012, accessed on October 7, 2015
  18. Press release of the City of Leipzig from September 24, 2012 ( Memento from June 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Royal Academy of Music : [1]
  20. Royal Academy of Music (Wikipedia)
  21. ^ Deutsche Welle : Brahmpreis for St. Thomas Choir Leipzig
  22. Winner Echo Klassik 2002  ( page no longer available , search in web archives )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  23. ( Memento from March 9, 2018 in the Internet Archive )
  25. DNB 574392262
  26. DNB 452503159