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Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 29, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375415297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375415296
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[I]t is hard to imagine what the English maestro John Eliot Gardiner. . . might do to surpass Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven in its commitment, scope and comprehensiveness. . . . [He] has done a masterly, monumental job of taking the measure of Bach the man and the musician.”
      –The New York Times
 
“With Bach we seek the elusive man hiding, perhaps, under the dense, spectacular music. . . .As eloquent a writer as he is a musician, Gardiner brings to his study the invaluable perspective of the practitioner. . . . One of the stars of the revolution over the past 50 years that has brought period instruments into the mainstream of early-music performance. . . . [Gardiner’s] depth of knowledge permeates his writing.”
      –The New York Times Book Review

“Mr. Gardiner writes in the refreshing voice of a man who has studied and performed Bach's music for decades. . . . Like his conducting, the author's writing is lively, argumentative and passionate. He believes deeply in Bach's music and wants to understand each aspect of its construction. . . . Bach's music is one of mankind's greatest achievements, and his genius touches upon matters eternal and profound. His choral music is less well-known than it should be—especially the cantatas, which Gardiner lauds as "gripping musical works of exceptional worth." Spurred by Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, many listeners will discover them for the first time. In performance and now in print, Mr. Gardiner is Bach's most eloquent champion…”
      –The Wall Street Journal

“It never happens often enough, but now and then, a subject gets the book it deserves. So it is with John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, a biography so thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully written that it should satisfy both the well-informed enthusiast and readers simply seeking to become better acquainted with a musical giant.”
      –The Daily Beast

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven is an inspiring book. . . . [it] is a superb, timely, thought-provoking, authoritative and extremely useful and readable book. It should find its way onto any serious music-lover’s shelves. From there it must often and regularly be taken off and read.”
      –Classical.Net
 
“[I]t is Gardiner’s experience as a conductor that informs so much of this book. Not only does he explain the harmonic, contrapuntal and polyphonic underpinnings of Bach’s music. . . he also comments on these scores from practical experience, having spent countless hours working out instrumental balances and sonorities, textures and dynamics, in concert halls and churches alike.”
      –The Washington Post

“Gardiner presents a nuanced account of the constellation of personal, musical, religious, and cultural forces that shaped Bach’s astonishing body of compositions. He writes with the care of a scholar, the knowledge of an expert musician, and the passion of a believer (in Bach if nothing else).”
      –The Christian Science Monitor

“An erudite work resting on prodigious research and experience and deep affection and admiration.”
      –Kirkus

“Typical John Eliot to combine so much erudition with even more passion and enthusiasm. It made me want to rush and listen to all the pieces whether familiar or unfamiliar. A treasure chest.” 
      –Simon Rattle, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven is a unique portrait of one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time by one of the greatest musical geniuses of our own age. John Eliot Gardiner uses his extraordinary immersion in Bach’s music to illuminate Bach the man more brilliantly than in any previous work, and has created his own deeply moving work of art.” 
      –Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
 
“A superb achievement, scholarly, lively, controversial and judicious. Like all great biographies of creative artists it builds a bridge from the past to the present and brings the work to new life.”
      –Ian Bostridge
  
“John Eliot Gardiner’s book is, apart from anything else, a tremendous feat of narrative: he has the rare gift of always putting the camera in the right place. He tells this long and richly involved story in a way that makes everything clear, and sets the life and the music in a historical perspective where every detail is relevant and every comment illuminating. Simply as a biography this is splendid, but the fact that it comes with such a wealth of musical understanding and experience makes it invaluable. I learned an enormous amount, and I know I'll return to it again and again.”
      –Philip Pullman

About the Author

John Eliot Gardiner is one of the world’s leading conductors, not only of Baroque music but across the whole repertoire. He founded the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. He has conducted most of the world’s great orchestras and in many of the leading opera houses. He lives and farms in Dorset, England.


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Customer Reviews

Very well researched; very well written.
robert mitchell
The author, conductor John Eliot Gardiner, is one of the main experts in Bach's choral work, and the book focuses on those aspects of the composer's production.
C. Tomasi
An excellent book that any lover of Bach will benefit from reading.
GDP

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 203 people found the following review helpful By Bach Lover on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is, and I am sure it will continue to be, one of the most interesting, well researched and valuable of books written on J.S. Bach and his times to date. I began it the day it arrived and have barely put it down. That is saying a lot as I have been buying and listening to and reading about Bach for the past 50+ years.
Just a quarter of the way into its more than 600 pages, I can report that this book should prove to be invaluable to anyone interested in Bach, the Baroque, and the musicians of that era and before. It is Gardiner's clear and compelling writing, the depth of his research, and his emphasis on Bach's life that is so very compelling. Who was Bach? Why was he that way? And how did his life shape his music? Answering these questions are the objectives of the book. He does it better than anyone I have read. There is much new information discovered only in the last decade or more.
I will revise this review when I've finished reading, but I wanted to send a dispatch that in the first four chapters, this is proving to be a wonderful and instructive read. And a last note: the footnotes are terrific.
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Format: Hardcover
"Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven" by John Eliot Gardiner is well-written biography about one of the greatest composers of all time, whose works are an indispensable part of the world's musical heritage.

John Eliot Gardiner is considered one of the composer's greatest living interpreters who grew up in a family that was entrusted keeping the Bach's portrait made by Bach the Elias Gottlob Haussmann during WW II.
Due to interest in the music that was very important in his family, Gardiner has been studying Bach life and works, making him the perfect person to write this kind of biography book.
Also he very early realized that he needs to study and learn performing Bach's music which is why he became a great interpreter of author's pieces performing them ever since.

Gardiner starts his story with Bach's birth in 1685, his orphanage days when he was 9 years old, start of living with his eldest brother, and beginning of his composer career when he was teenager. Author's opinion is that Bach can thank for his success not only obvious great natural talent but also to the living with his older brother who taught him many difficult life lessons.
The story continues with Bach being awarded the position at the Neukirche in Arnstadt when he was only 18 and soon followed Thomas cantorate in Leipzig...

In his book Gardiner also speaks about the organization of Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, very important cultural and musical event that took place in 2000 for the occasion of the anniversary of 250 years of the Maestro's death.
That was very important event due to the first-time performance of Bach's newly found materials that were owned by the communist DDR and therefore unfamiliar to the world public.
Read more ›
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Johannes Climacus on January 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do not mean to derogate from Sir John Eliot Gardiner's status as one of the great luminaries of the podium in our age--to say nothing of his status as a pioneer and perfecter of period performance practice--but in the end the capstone of his career might well turn out to have been in the medium of prose rather than musical performance! This is, quite simply, the most fascinating, engrossing, erudite and stunningly written work on the Leipzig Cantor available. Too bad it focuses primarily on his sacred music (I would love to have Gardiner's obiter dicta on many of the keyboard, chamber and orchestral works treated only tangentially here); but within that limited scope, Gardiner has achieved something quite remarkable: a work of musical historiography that manages to combine rigorous scholarship with philosophical acumen and literary flair. As a philosopher with a keen interest in the interface between aesthetics and religion, I particularly appreciated Gardiner's thorough understanding of the exigencies of church music within the Lutheran tradition, and his situating of tht tradition within the larger framework of Church history, scriptural exegesis and Christian spirituality. His effort to discern Bach's character and aspirations from his church music rather than principally from the documentary evidence (which is relaitvely meager) fixes the reader's (and listener's) attention where it must always begin and end--namely, with the scores themselves, as performed and heard.Read more ›
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69 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really like this book, although I probably won't finish it. I have about 50 of Gardiner's cantata recordings and other works but I am not a musician and don't read music. The book is a wonderful synthesis of historical information on Bach and Gardiner's intuitions derived from his intimate knowledge of the music, especially the choral works. But I can't "hear" the music when Gardiner describes it, and I can't read he notes he shows.

This book cries out for a total multimedia treatment. When JEG mentions a phrase or musical element, I'd like to be able to click and hear it. I've been to one of his lecture concerts and to several of Helmut Rilling's and that's whee I really learn. I'm really sorry the book can't quite give me that.

All that said, I really like this book. I recommend it to anyone who's willing to deal with the issues.
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