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The festival, founded in 1999 to celebrate this city's favorite musical son on his own turf, offered a stunning array of events over the weekend. This included a new and remarkable feature, a "Ring of Cantatas": 10 church concerts or Lutheran services with world-class interpreters - John Elliot Gardiner, Masaaki Suzuki, Ton Koopman and Hans-Christoph Rademann - presenting 33 cantatas over 48 hours.

The notion of a ring must have seemed only natural to musicians working in Leipzig, the city where Bach spent his last 27 years (1723-50) in service to St. Thomas Church (known by its German name, the Thomaskirche) and School. It is also birthplace of Richard Wagner, whose huge four-opera "Der Ring des Nibelungen" still runs regularly in Bayreuth, just two hours away. [...]

As if the Ring itself were not enough, Bachfest also presented late-night concerts in the remarkable new Universitätskirche St. Pauli. David Timm conducted the university's choir and Baroque ensemble in three cantatas, over and above the 33. They included the "Trauer-Ode", a lament on the death of Saxon princess in 1727, the premiere of which Bach conducted in the old Universitätskirche, destroyed by the East German regime in 1968.