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Great Composers - Bach
Great Composers - Bach
Director: James Runcie
Genres: Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2006     0hr 59min

J.S. Bach occupies a pivotal place in the history of music. His compositions represent both the height of the Baroque and the beginning of the Modern Age of music. Filmed in Leipzig, London and America this documentary, bo...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: James Runcie
Genres: Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, Classical, Documentary
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/26/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 59min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

"The immortal god of harmony"
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 03/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)


"[Bach was] the most stupendous miracle in all music."

The above quotation was uttered by the great opera composer Richard Wagner who admired the composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 to 1750). (The quotation that titles this review was uttered by Ludwig van Beethoven who also admired him.)

You'll find this quotation (and the one that titles this review) in this documentary that presents the life and works of Bach. Besides learning about the man behind the music, we also get to hear, through actual performances, beautiful extracts of his universally appealing music.

Throughout this documentary are brief comments made by respected others such as leading Bach scholars, pianists, music professors, and conductors. I found all the comments very interesting.

The film is narrated by the actor (especially known for his Shakespearean talents) Kenneth Branagh.

What amazed me about this documentary is that, despite being only an hour long, it covers an incredible amount regarding Bach's life. With the addition of actual performances of Bach's works, this film is also incredibly enjoyable and not ever boring.

I will give Bach's principal works below and include a specific extract example(s) of such a work from this film in parenthesis:

(1) Sacred vocal works: over 200 church cantatas (Credo); 7 motets (Mass in B minor, St. Matthew Passion)
(2) Secular vocal works: over 200 cantatas (Cantatas 131 and 140)
(3) Orchestral music: 4 orchestral suites, 6 Brandenburg Concertos (Brandenburg Concerto in D major), concertos for one and two violins & for one, two, three, and four harpsichords (Concerto for Harpsichord)
(4) Chamber music: 6 sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin; 6 sonatas for violin and harpsichord; 6 suites for cello; flue sonatas; viola da gamba sonatas
(5) Keyboard music (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Goldberg Variations, The Art of the Fugue, Air on the G String)

Finally, the DVD (the one released in 2006) is perfect in picture and sound quality. It has no extras.

In conclusion, for those looking to find a quick way to learn about J.S. Bach and become acquainted with his music, this is the film to see!!

(1997; 1 hr; full screen; 13 scenes; made for TV)

Jesse Cohen | Doylestown, PA | 03/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Incredible. Informative but not boring at all. Very insightful and enjoyable for any fan of classical music. This actually made me love Bach even more."
Excellent Series
J. Kara Russell | Hollywood - the cinderblock Industrial cubicle | 07/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I did a comparison viewing of many composer biographies over the past few months. I have seen 1/2 of this series, and in each instance, this series is far and away the best. Aside from the seamless narration of Kenneth Branagh, we have knowledgable performers/achademics who both demonstrate and share their enthusiasm for what made Bach so outstanding both in his time and over time.

Quibbles: 1) You don't get to hear full pieces of music - but that is a decision built into the series; in each case, it makes you want to go out and find the music, to listen to it with the new framework of insights provided. 2) Because of his position in the current musical scene, Jonathan Miller is given a lot of air time in this series, which he uses to promote his anti-religion view, and to impose it on his view of these composers, who were, for the most part, invovled in church music, supported by their church work, and many of whom did have rather puritanical religious viewpoints. His personal bias brings his other opinions into doubt.

In this DVD on Bach, the woman who brings his works into light is so in love with these works it is infectious. The particular prism of using Bach's preludes and the goldberg variations as advanced exercies is tremendously inspiring to me as a musician (and a marvelous CD was just released of the Goldberg Variations played on harp, by Catrin Finch).

Each episode of this series is worth viewing several times, there is a tremendous amount to be gotten out of it on many levels."