> Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): John Eliot Gardiner In Rehearsal< [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
John Eliot Gardiner In Rehearsal
Cantata No. 63, "Christem, ätzet diesen Tag" BWV 63
 Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner
Sound format: PCM stereo
Subtitle languages: GB, D, F, SP
Picture format: 4:3
Region code: 2, 5
Picture standard: PAL
Rec: 2000, Abbey Road Studio, London.
 ARTHAUS 100292 [59 min.]



In the year 2000, John Eliot Gardiner set out on his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, with the goal of performing all of Bach’s sacred cantatas in churches around Europe and in New York. Over a 52-week period, his orchestra, choir and soloists achieved this unique goal, with a fervour that was almost religious. This DVD presents Gardiner in rehearsal with his musicians as they work on one cantata, BWV 63, Christem, ätzet diesen Tag.

Filmed for the Franco-German television channel, Arte, this documentary features the usual rehearsal footage combined with some interview footage of Gardiner as he talks about Bach, the cantatas, performing and music in general. While this is an interesting film, especially for fans of Bach or the cantatas, the appeal of such a DVD is limited. This documentary seems more like what should be the bonus on a DVD of a performance of Bach’s music, rather than the only such content. For we hear the musicians rehearsing the cantata BWV 63, but not performing the entire work! The actual performance part of the DVD consists of several sections of the work (not all complete), but not the entire cantata, and these are only in a rehearsal setting, not even an actual performance, and, in addition, are punctuated by interview sections. This is all the more a disappointment since BWV 63 is one of Bach’s finest cantatas, filled with some of the most melodically pleasing movements of all his work.

Arthaus should have done better with this film. There are many films of Gardiner and his group performing the cantatas during his Pilgrimage, and it would not have been difficult to couple one with this documentary. Personally, I find rehearsal films a bit boring, since you never get truly to hear the music as it should be heard. However, it is always interesting to listen to Gardiner when he addresses the camera directly, since he is such a lover of Bach and the cantatas. The issues he raises are very interesting, and it would have been interesting to hear more. The passion he expresses as he talks about this music is infectious.

A DVD of limited interest, which may be attractive to true fans of Bach and the cantatas, but has little to offer the more casual listener. It is a shame that the entire cantatas is not performed on this DVD, since what is performed is certainly interesting.

Kirk McElhearn

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