Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Bach: Music In The Castle Of Heaven by Sir John Eliot Gardiner

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Bach: Music In The Castle Of Heaven
John Eliot Gardiner
672 Pages
ISBN: # :0375415297

There are a dozen reasons why Bach: Music In The Castle Of Heaven is an important addition to the J.S. Bach bibliography, several being associated with its author, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Gardiner is the dean of the college of Bach Choral specialists, a college containing names like Joshua Rifkin, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Philippe Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, Masaaki Suzuki, and Helmuth Rilling. What separates Gardiner from the rest of the Bach pack is his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage (BCP), a project he initiated at the turn of the millennium celebrating the 250th anniversary of the composer's death.

Gardiner is not the first conductor to record Bach's complete church cantatas. Pieter Jan Leusink, Helmuth Rilling and most recently Masaaki Suzuki have previously (or contemporaneously) committed all of the sacred cantatas to digital. But it was only Gardiner who navigated the physical and musical logistics, and largely in 2000, performed and recorded, in the proper liturgical order, Bach's entire surviving cantata corpus— almost 200 works total—in various Abbeys, Cathedrals, churches and chapels throughout Europe and beyond.

Beginning on Christmas Day 1999 in Weimar's Herderkirche, and concluding in St. Bartholomew's Church, New York on 31st December 2000, Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists recorded what would eventually become the BCP that visited fifteen countries with ninety concerts given. These concerts were poured into the 27 volumes of the Cantatas released between May 10, 2005 (Volume 1) and April 8, 2008 (Volume 27), with a single box set made available October 29, 2013.

Gardiner, who was a singer and choirmaster like Bach himself, has spent a lifetime with the Master's choral and vocal music and is therefore more than qualified to place a book into the Bach biographical library, which until recently has been as static as the Biblical Canon as far as innovation and research are concerned. Gardiner skillfully used a variety of biographical methods in fleshing out his picture of Bach. First, Gardiner is acutely aware of all Bach scholarship to date. He takes full advantage of the most recent scholarship in building his picture of Bach, one a bit different than that of the past. Second, Gardiner re-covers some older ground by doing the "laundry receipt" checking of recorded facts contemporary with Bach (and those crafty Germans left nothing unwritten). From this, Gardiner returns to and re-evaluates Bach's poor attendance record in primary school, once attributed to the composer's questionable childhood health, and now proposed to have been a conscious effort to protect the child Bach from what can only be considered the draconian environment of Lutheran parochial education. Add to this that Bach was of meager means (and an orphan), as were his classmates, and there can be found some credence to Bach's being a bit of a hellion at the time.

Gardiner, like Stanley Crouch in the first volume of his biography of saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker, Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker (Harper, 2013), spends ample time researching the environment in which Bach grew up. He does this at the tactile European level, delving all the way to Bach's Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, State of Thuringia, in the center of what is now Germany. Gardiner details the economic and cultural norms of the period, as well as those affecting Bach directly in school. Much attention is afforded Bach's rearing at the hands of this older brother Johann Christoph, his musical tutelage and Lutheran discipline, both of which affected Bach profoundly.

Next, Gardiner introduces what he calls "The Class of '85." That would be 1685, a year that saw the birth of Bach and two other Baroque titans in Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) and George Frideric Handel (1685- 1759). The author expands this list with the slightly older Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) and Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) and discusses the artistic and cultural aspects of each artist, both as composers and performers. Interwoven in this discussion are the different styles of "serious" vocal music with a good bit of time spent of Claudio Monteverdi () and the birth of opera presented alongside the evolution of liturgical and choral music and the parts Handel played in the former and Bach in the latter. Gardiner's careful approach does much to illuminate the musical environment these artists inhabited.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read All That's Jazz Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read Softly, With Feeling Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "All That's Jazz" Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read "The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966" Book Reviews The Beatles - On the Road, 1964-1966
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth" Book Reviews Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "Softly, With Feeling" Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!