John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: Cantata, BWV 63
PERFORMER: Soloists; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists
CATALOGUE NO: 100 292

Advertisement

Among the many projects to mark the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death, John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Pilgrimage was surely the most ambitious: performances of all of Bach’s cantatas on their correct liturgical dates in churches all over Europe. This documentary focuses on a rehearsal for one of the earliest contenders, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag.

It charts its transformation from ragged read-through to… well, sadly, not polished performance on this short-measure DVD, but at least to more-polished rehearsal. Between rehearsal shots, Gardiner talks enthusiastically about Bach’s music and his own approach, and some of the performers offer opinions on why working with the conductor is both demanding and rewarding.

Advertisement

Gardiner’s rehearsal technique is worth watching: his passion for the music is clear, and he knows what he wants, and, more importantly, how to get it. Above all, he believes that the music should dance, and it’s fascinating to see how, through tone and phrasing, an accent here, a crescendo there, and exemplary attention to pronunciation and diction, he gets the musicians to achieve this. Katina Ellery