Scarcely ever have I read a work of nonfiction written so passionately as this one Gardiner s work tells the story of Bach s life insofar as its events can be discerned from its beginning through to its end, all the while examining selections from his oeuvre in detail.The most common criticism of this book I ve seen in the press and on Goodreads is that it glosses over most of Bach s instrumental works This is true The book focuses almost exclusively on Bach s choral works and particularly focuses on his compositions for the church However, the treatment of these choral works is positively forensic, and this book serves as just about as comprehensive a guide to them as any non scholarly reader might ever ask for.Gardiner is clearly a devotee of Bach s music, and he spells out the meaning behind various pieces extremely vividly It is often said that the skill of a good teacher lies in making the students interested in essence, in showing enough passion in the subject to make it come alive , rather than choosing interesting things to teach In this, I found Gardiner profoundly succesful I m not sure that I had ever even thought about Bach s chuch cantatas before reading this book, but by the end I have listened to a great deal of them, and have a list as long as my arm of pieces still to listen to It s a fascinating and diverse genre that is often overlooked in the twenty first century.Sadly, scholars don t know a great deal about the actual details of Bach s life Where he worked and lived and by which dates he had composed which pieces these are all things we know than a little about, but in terms of his character and the day to day details of his life, unfortunately very little is known Gardiner does an admirable job telling the story with the material available, but this book as a whole is primarily a musical examination of his life, rather than a strictly biographical one.One of the unusual anecdotes from the text is included below Bach, although certainly a brilliant man, was not always a nice one We now move forward a few years to an episode in Bach s first full time post to the saga of the recalcitrant bassoon On one of the few occasions when Bach actually complied with the consistory s desire for him to compose figural music, he came up with what may have been a first draft of a cantata BWV 150 , or, if not, then something very similar to it, involving a difficult bassoon solo Setting the music in front of his raw student ensemble, the twenty year old Bach had either seriously miscalculated or was being deliberately provocative His novice bassoonist, three years his senior, was Johann Heinrich Geyersbach In rehearsal he evidently made a hash of it, and Bach showed his annoyance As the son of a municipal music director, Bach would have been familiar with the values shared by Saxony s instrumentalists, who were always told to be wary of Pfuscher bunglers , St rer troublemakers and St mpler botchers If this was the result of having done his best to make music with an unruly lot of what would now be called late maturing students, it merely confirmed all his misgivings Geyersbach, for his part, was beleidigt that superbly expressive German word which signifies both taking offence and feeling hurt , stung by the public dressing down he had received at the hands of a stuck up young organist, known to be paid exceptionally well for doing remarkably little The word St mpler may have crossed Bach s mind instead, he called him a Zippel Fagottist Even in recent biographies this epithet continues to be translated euphemistically as a greenhorn , a rapscallion or a nanny goat bassoonist , whereas a literal translation suggests something far stronger Bach had called Geyersbach a prick of a bassoonist stato davvero interessante leggere questo saggio, incentrato sulla produzione sacra di Bach, che d poco spazio alla stretta biografia e solo nella misura in cui inquadra l artista, uomo talvolta servile con i potenti la sua vita dipendeva dalle loro grazie e commissioni, come biasimarlo , irascibile, in disputa per i compensi, stakanovista per anni compose una Cantata a settimana lavorando senza sosta intimamente religioso La musica di Bach incentrata su vita morte Dio e il suo fine, come noto, elevare l anima a Dio e renderGli lode Questa intima predisposizione per il sacro di Bach, certo non fu slegata dalle vicende biografiche perse entrambi i genitori da bambino, la prima moglie all improvviso, diversi figli ancora infanti La morte era una realt che conosceva bene L autore noto direttore d orchestra inglese un fautore della musica barocca, bench i suoi interessi spazino dal Medioevo al Romanticismo, si pu certamente dire che il barocco il suo ambito musicale preferito, stato lui a riportare in auge questo periodo della musica classica, abbastanza trascurato negli ultimi decenni L ha fatto con passione smisurata e raffinata dedizione, adottando per l esecuzione dei brani, strumenti d epoca, al fine di riprodurre nella maniera pi fedele possibile le opere cos come composte da Bach.La sua passione evidentissima in questo saggio volto a far comprendere il genio di Bach, la sua simmetria armoniosa, il suo anelito spirituale, la sua innovazione musicale tanto pi sorprendente in quanto Bach rimase tutta la vita un provinciale, non usc mai dai confini tedeschi con l introduzione del contrappunto e di strumenti inusuali per l epoca, quali l oboe, il corno e l utilizzo innovativo dei cantori Passione, quella di Gardiner, che traspare nel metodo adottato, dottissimo e accurato agli occhi di un lettore medio, assai ignorante di tecnica musicale, nel novero dei quali mi includo oserei dire perfino troppo accurato, addirittura filologico il metodo con cui commenta ogni singola strofa, delle opere pi importanti del suo nostro amatissimo compositore tedesco Ci risulta sia un pregio sia un difetto, la lettura a volte un po rallentata, eccessivamente appesantita, laddove appare spesso lettura per musicisti esperti di Bach, pi che per semplici ammiratori Il lettore medio, assai ignorante di musica, trae comunque diletto dall immensa erudizione storica e teologica di Gardiner, ad esempio ho trovato eccellente la cornice storica della Germania post bellica, periodo in cui nacque Bach, ove si intende la terribile Guerra dei Trent anni, talmente funesta e disastrosa da aver lasciato tracce profonde nella societ anche a decenni di distanza, portando come eredit territori e citt rase al suolo, miseria diffusa, famiglie decimate dalla guerra e dalla carestia e dalla peste, insieme a terribili ricordi di efferati delitti e soprusi e atti inumani quali, perfino, il cannibalismo, come narrate anche da Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen nel suo L avventuroso Simplicissimus Ugualmente accurata e interessante il tratteggio della societ tedesca del periodo fine seicento, met del settecento , come anche la diversa fruizione della musica sacra, eseguita in contesti molto pi mondani e variegati di quanto non accada ai nostri tempi Coltissimo Gardiner anche in materia teologica a Cambridge ha studiato anche storia e lingua araba , mi ha molto colpito per la sua accuratezza, una nota sull Arcangelo Michele, cui Bach ha dedicato una serie di cantate, tra le quali spicca la bellissima BWV 130 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir Cantata per la festa di San Michele Arcangelo e tutti gli Angeli, dove si rende lode e gloria a Dio per aver creato gli angeli e dove, tra armoniosi gorgheggi e squilli di trombe prima, e trombe, basso continuo e timpani in seguito, si descrivono gli angeli danzanti in parata, prima della battaglia contro L Angelo caduto e tutta la Geenna, e inseguito la battaglia vera e propria battaglia che viene descritta non come evento passato ma come pericolo sempre incombente causato dal vecchio dragone che brucia di invidia e rimugina sempre su nuovi mali Cit, pag 482 Cantata BWV 130Insomma, un saggio che i profondi conoscitori del musicista apprezzeranno moltissimo e che gli altri troveranno stimolante e interessante, sorvolando magari sui tecnicismi dettagliatissimi ma vivaddio, finalmente qualcuno che parla con cognizione di causa di argomenti che conosce a fondo Per me stato di stimolo a ricercare, tra i miei CD, quelli dedicati al genio teutonico, io gli ho sempre preferito il pi frizzante Mozart, o di lui apprezzando la musica profana, Concerti Brandeburghesi e Variazioni Goldberg adesso comincer a porre rimedio, con tutto il resto della sua vastissima, simmetricissima e paradisiaca musica Mit himmlischer Freude Johann Sebastian Bach Is One Of The Most Unfathomable Composers In The History Of Music How Can Such Sublime Work Have Been Produced By A Man Who Seems So Ordinary, So Opaque And Occasionally So Intemperate In This Remarkable Book, John Eliot Gardiner Distils The Fruits Of A Lifetime S Immersion As One Of Bach S Greatest Living Interpreters Explaining In Wonderful Detail How Bach Worked And How His Music Achieves Its Effects, He Also Takes Us As Deeply Into Bach S Works And Mind As Perhaps Words Can The Result Is A Unique Book About One Of The Greatest Of All Creative Artists Four months to read this book Some brilliant things here, but also very frustrating Gardiner strongly believes that Bach s religious music, specifically the prodigious cantata cycles, the St John and St Matthew Passions, and the B minor Mass, are at the absolute center of Bach s accomplishment and identity Fine, but he neglects Bach s stupendous abstract music, and really fails to address how those not attached to Bach s Lutheran variant of Christianity how those who may not be religious at all may find Bach s work to be the most important musical accomplishment of the last millennium.This is not a standard biography again that is fine, but if you want to know the basic data of Bach s life, this is not the place to start In spite of the book s 560 pages of text, Gardiner really does not touch upon J.S Bach s family life at home, which is a little peculiar for a man whose wives went through twenty full term pregnancies Gardiner is an important and extremely accomplished musician, and it is very valuable to read this appreciation of the great composer written by someone who approaches him from that angle, from someone who understands how Bach s genius is expressed through performance Just be aware that this should not be the first, and definitely not the last, book about Bach that you read. The book offers musical insights into Bach s sacred music, and also into his time and place We are presented with the results of a lot of fascinating and on going research.I love the cantatas, passions, masses and have them all I took helpful notes on what to listen out for in those cantatas I m not familiar with The Passions and the B Minor Mass are treated towards the end and I gave up at the end of the Kyrie Reading about the B Minor Mass is a task for another time.I thought that John Eliot Gardiner s enthusiastic prose could have done with some editing but occasionally there were inspiring passages of considerable beauty Because of the density and convolutions of the prose style, the smallness of the typeface and the over 660 pages I found this an eye and wrist straining read. Much to my surprise, given my interest in the subject and the widespread acclaim for this book, large portions of this were a total slog Having gone in knowing Bach s instrumental works somewhat better than his choral pieces, I was intrigued by getting the perspective of a choral conductor Sadly, I found the author to be pretty grating in his discussion of music not just the random speculation about what Bach must have felt as he wrote pieces passages of music clearly show Bach wrestling with his doubt about Lutheran dogma, huh , but also the long descriptions of how the listener responds to various works even when I completely agree with the reaction to the musical passages being described, I recoil at being told that the audience can t help but react in some, usually swoony, way I know a lot of people that do not react that way to Bach Some of the ways Gardiner organized the discussion of cantatas was also pretty unsatisfying, with a fair amount of jumping abruptly from one to the next.I actually largely enjoyed the biographical sections, even though they re mostly material I was already familiar with Other than that, though, my main response to the book was relief that it was over. Gardiner has devoted a decent chunk of his life to the dissection, conducting and promotion of the works of Bach, particularly the sacred vocal pieces, and so it makes sense that this book is a love letter to this music he is so enraptured by There s biography here and a strong sense of Bach s character, but what makes up the bulk of this book is a forensic, deep, loving, exhaustive and necessarily speculative analysis of the sacred works the Passions, the Mass, and particularly the 200 ish cantatas It s than a life s work and it s a pleasure and privilege to read Delightful, heavy and really quite brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed this It s detailed and full, from a conductor who has spent his whole career mastering Bach.It dropped 1 star for the underlying doubts about Bach Otherwise it s great. Still a book about Bach, the musician of the musicians, the boss Why one over and what news The author John Eliot Gardiner An institution The English chief was the student and also the heir of Nadia Boulanger He was one of the heroes of the baroque revolution.This movement began in Holland and Germany at the end of the Seventies The goal was to play again the Baroque music with close to the authenticity instrument of time, diapason with 451 herz, cord in bowel..Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Ren Jacobs This period is very well told in the book of Richard Powers It is the American chief, William Christie, which started again the baroque opera with Atys de Lully I have a particular tenderness for Leonhardt To allure my wife I took her along to listen to him to play of harpsichord at the Sainte Chapelle.The setting sun lit the stained glasses of this jewelry Gothic The tart sound of the harpsichord rose in the vaults That went.Gardiner was one of the leaders of this revolution With his chorus Monteverdi choir in the great British tradition and his orchestra English Baroque Solist, he has recorded many references of this repertoire, in particular of Monteverdi, the integral of the cantatas of Bach When I was student in Lyon, he was chief of the Opera I saw many of his concerts With him we discovered Les Boreades of Rameau, Scylla and Glaucus of L clair..He has also created the Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra for the recent repertoire He has even endangered him in directing P ll as which is the most boring Opera of the repertoire The libretto is of a terrible silliness It is the only one which managed to make it audible.Gardiner is undoubtedly the best person to write on Bach He passed all his childhood in a farm of Dorset under the severe glance of Bach the most famous portrait had been entrusted to his parents by German refugees the destiny.Gardiner is an expert of the music He shows us Bach in all his truth a man irritable, perfectionist, require, high worker Scorned by the middle class of Leipzig, ihe complains him to an inhuman work Gardiner places us in the middle of the creative process, because he knows it by the interior.He traces to us the portrait of a so human man that he becomes to us close to him, far from the usual chromos.I advise you a film Chronicles of Maria Magdalena Bach drawn from the chronicles of the same name.It is known recently that the second woman of Bach did not write it It is apocryphal book written in the USA at the beginning of XX The film is in black and white, austere like all those of Straub and Huillet There are long plan sequence with hieratic characters Leonarhdt plays Bach and Harnoncourt his student. Yet another book on Bach, are you kidding Fino Well, yes and this one is really really good John Eliot Gardner is one of the world s greatest performers of baroque music and this book provides insight into what for me would be the otherwise completely inaccessible world of Bach s choral music all written in what is for me incomprehensible German He has a great, entertaining writing style and I learned so much and loved learning about how I could appreciate the music despite not understanding the words I even went to a performance of the Passion of Saint John at the Madeleine Church in Paris and was blown away it did help to have printed programs with German on one side and French translation on the other but I was pissed off at a few of the editorial choices of the conductor who cut out some of the coolest parts that Gardiner had gotten me all would up about Needless to say, I would recommend reading Wolff s excellent Bach biography first but I would also insist that this book is a passionate and incredibly informative read as well.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner is an English conductor.
- 629 pages
- Music in the Castle of Heaven
- John Eliot Gardiner
- 09 May 2017 John Eliot Gardiner