Beer Versus Coffee and Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach is cool. I love his sense of humor and strength of spirit. Speaking of spirits: During J.S. Bach’s life there were two distinct points of view in Germany with regards to beer versus coffee. In this incredible battle J.S. Bach, a humble and poor musician, took on Frederick the Great. First a little background on the man Bach fought against in the beer-coffee battle:
Frederick II (German: Friedrich; 24 January 1712 – 17 August 1786) was King of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king. His most significant accomplishments during his reign included his military victories, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his patronage of the arts and the Enlightenment in Prussia, and his final success against great odds in the Seven Years’ War.
Now, enter J.S. Bach to face King Frederick the Great. An edict by Frederick the Great declared: “It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects and this must be prevented. His majesty was brought up on beer and so were his ancestors and his officers. Many battles were fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the king does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be depended upon to endure hardships or to beat his enemies in case of war.” My source is a quote by Victor Borge in My Favorite Intermissions.
Bach’s Coffee Cantata is close to being an opera. His Coffee Cantata #211 has a plot, recitatives, and arias. Had money been raised for scenery and costumes, it would have been a baroque opera. Bach wrote it in defiance of the king’s edict. Basically, in the cantata, a daughter’s father tries to reason with her to kick the coffee habit. After all kinds of threats, in desperation he promises to find her a handsome husband. Marriages were pre-arranged in those days. However, as Borge states: “She (daughter in the cantata) and Bach (the composer) have the last laugh together”. The daughter confides that she would only marry the man that lets her drink all the coffee she wants.
Beer Versus Coffee – Coffee Wins (at least in the Coffee Cantata #211)
For years J.S. Bach gave weekly coffee concerts at Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig. Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as beer versus coffee could create such conflict. Please share if you like this Bach blog. Oh yes, I am available for piano lessons in Sarasota, should you want to study some of the music of this great master. I also play Bach’s entire Italian Concerto on St Armand’s Circle in Sarasota at the Crab and Fin restaurant. Days are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday -check events on DSOworks for details. Yes, the Crab and Fin serves coffee, coffee drinks and beer. Your choice.