Chasing away the devil--the genius of Bach.
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 05/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fascinating combination of documentary and taped rehearsal session. Throughout the film, conductor John Eliot Gardiner has opportunities to make astounding and thought-provoking pronouncements about Bach and his music. "The big paradox," he says, "is that Bach's music, for all its provincial origins, has more universal appeal than--arguably--that of any other composer, including the great names like Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. He combines the physical/earthy with the metaphysical/spiritual. The intellectual foundation of his art is as strong as the sensual/euphoric side of his musical output." Maestro Gardiner's enthusiasm is apparent in the way he works with his soloists and instrumentalists as they work together to craft what must have been a brilliant performance of Cantata No. 63, "Christians, Remember This Day." While this taping is pretty much a love-fest all around, there are hints in statements made by the musicians who have worked with Gardiner over the years that the Maestro was not always such a benign shaper of the collective process (one male singer compares Gardiner to a rather critical and demanding girlfriend...a rather telling analogy, I thought). As a non-musician, I was fascinated by the variety of ways Gardiner was able to articulate the subtle qualities he was looking for from his musicians' performances. The discussion of the proper way to pronounce the German word for "torment" was especially fun to witness.Another telling quote from the Maestro: "I count myself very fortunate to have grown up in a family of musicians who weren't professional musicians, but for whom singing was very much part of the way of life. My parents had a particular love of German music....I feel that having had that privilege of learning Bach's music early on, never in a church context, but always in a secular context, that it's made me have a deep affection for this music of Bach. And also, it's makes me feel his music is still to a large extent misrepresented and misinterpreted because, when done in a strict German context, often the joy of the music goes out the window and becomes serious [evangelical Protestant] music and it lacks [joy]." With this in mind, it's no wonder that the rehearsal of Cantata No. 63 was chosen for this documentary. It's one that Gardiner finds exceptional among Bach's output because it is not based on a Gospel or Scripture text, does not preach or sermonize, and is completely given over to a festive and "dance-like" spirit.In case you're wondering, this documentary presents large chunks of music and it is possible to enjoy the film as a performance piece. But DON'T fast-forward past the "talking head" sequences. The exchange of ideas between highly gifted creative artists is an exciting thing to behold."
O selger Tag!
Axel | USA | 03/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The review below summarizes very well the general spirit of this documentary and there isn't much more to add to it to encourage potential buyers.
It is a bit disappointing that there is no actual performance recorded here - and there is plenty of room for at least 1 cantata - but even without a complete performance this DVD is surely worth its price for it preserves one of the greatest moments in recent Bach discography, Sara Mingardo's inspired rendition of the recitative "O selger Tag" (track 7). It lasts only about 3 minutes but it says volumes about how Bach's music should be performed. Mingardo's dedication and simplicity of delivery are breathtaking! Gardiner seems deeply moved by this performance as revealed by the camera at the end of the recitative. There is a touching scene a few moments earlier, when Mingardo mispronounces the word `hassen' leaving out the initial `h' - a natural thing to do for an Italian! - but Gardiner doesn't interrupt to correct her, we only see him smile kind-heartedly (but if you have the CD with this and other Christmas cantatas recorded after the rehearsal preserved on this DVD, listen how beautifully Mingardo treats this initial `h' there to give the word `hassen' - `hate' - the right colour!). This is obviously the new, mellow Gardiner that the interviewed artists talk about and it is a pleasure to see him so deeply involved in this special project. Gardiner is not my first choice when it comes to performing Bach but I appreciate his enthusiasm for this music and the fact that through the Pilgrimage he made Bach even more approachable to many young listeners."
Amazingly insightful... seeing the master at work.
Mark Preece | Edmonton, Alberta Canada | 04/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD a while ago, and my wife was not at all pleased because she thought it would be a DVD that I would watch once or twice and put away... not so! This inside look into the world of professional recording sessions is very insightful. The depth that Gardiner goes into the work as a whole is quite impressive, then each movement with even more understanding and explanation is even more remarkable. Comments given from Soloists, and members of the Chorus as well as the Orchestra provide different aspects on how they view rehearsals in general, and how they like to work with Maestro Gardiner. Sir John Eliot Gardiner even explains the pros and cons of working with an orchestra (which is comprised only of free-lance musicians) on period instruments, which I thought very fascinating, being a free-lancer myself. I even showed this to my father-in-law who not a musician by any means, but enjoyed just as much as I did. He thought is was remarkable how Gardiner would explain what he wanted, and the ensemble would actually do it, enabling the listener to actually hear the "before and after"!Highly recommended for anyone who likes great music, and appreciates authentic sounding music."