Bach didn’t only love beer!

In a previous post, I extolled the virtues of J.S. Bach, and mentioned my surprise at discovering that he was, to put it lightly, a ‘bit of a lad’ (street-fighting, imprisonment, father to at least 20 known offspring, incorrigible, …). Added to the list of his outrageous pursuits was a love of beer. What I’ve more recently discovered is that Bach had another specific passion, and that was coffee, making him a regular at Leipzig’s Zimmermann Coffee House.

So great was his love of coffee (reputably up to 30 cups a day) that he wrote music about it, specifically ‘The Coffee Cantata’, composed in 1735 when Bach was 40. Yes, a piece of Bach genius was devoted to this drink of the ages, with lyrics written by a collaborator (a librettist known as Picander) reflecting this joy. An example of a verse serves to illustrate:

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
and, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

Here’s a sample, the final chorus of the cantata (it’s only 5 minutes) on this video:

If that’s inspired you, you can try the complete cantata – still in German but with English subtitles. It’s a delightful story in song, telling of a father’s frustration with his daughter’s coffee addiction – it’s a mini comic opera. As explained in the outline on Open Culture,

Coffee Cantata is about a young vivacious woman named Aria who loves coffee. Her killjoy father is, of course, dead set against his daughter having any kind of caffeinated fun. So he tries to ban her from the drink. Aria bitterly complains:

Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.

I won’t give away the amusing complete plot (here’s the lyrics), but it ends with the rousing chorus:

Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht,
The cat does not leave the mouse,
Die Jungfern bleiben Coffeeschwestern.
young ladies remain coffee addicts.
Die Mutter liebt den Coffeebrauch,
The mother loves her cup of coffee
Die Großmama trank solchen auch,
the grandmother drank it also.
Wer will nun auf die Töchter lästern!
Who can blame the daughters!

Enjoy – I’ll get back to sipping my Melbourne Magic (a double ristretto that is topped with steamed milk and served in a five-ounce cup).

2 thoughts on “Bach didn’t only love beer!

  1. It is a lovely Cantata, indeed – and coffee can even undo ….
    … No, it is not really the Price accepted for a Man in the house:
    “Ach ein Mann! Ach, ach, ein Mann – dieser steht mit wahrlich an…”
    “… und füge in die Ehestiftung ein, dass mir erlaubet möge sein
    Translation required?

  2. From the link:

    Nun geht und sucht der alte Schlendrian,
    Now old Schlendrian goes off and looks out
    Wie er vor seine Tochter Liesgen
    for his daughter Liesgen
    Bald einen Mann verschaffen kann;
    to see if he can get her a husband soon.
    Doch, Liesgen streuet heimlich aus:
    But Liesgen lets it be secretly known:
    Kein Freier komm mir in das Haus,
    no suitor of mine should come to the house
    Er hab es mir denn selbst versprochen
    unless he himself has promised
    Und rück es auch der Ehestiftung ein,
    and it is written also in the marriage contract
    Dass mir erlaubet möge sein,
    that I shall be permitted
    Den Coffee, wenn ich will, zu kochen.
    to make coffee whenever I want.

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