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Bach: Johannes-Passion (2006)

Helen Donath , Julia Hamari , Karl Richter  |  NR |  DVD
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Helen Donath, Julia Hamari, Münchener Bach-Orchester, Münchener Bach-Chor, Peter Schreier
  • Directors: Karl Richter
  • Writers: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Format: Classical, Color, NTSC, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled
  • Language: German (DTS 5.1), German (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: German, English, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 129 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000C1XGBW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,703 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious performance -- DREADFUL VIDEO DIRECTION March 15, 2006
Five stars for the musical performance / ONE STAR FOR VIDEO DIRECTION

As expected, this is an absolutely glorious performance. Karl Richter conducts equisitely; the chorus has a gorgeous tone and sings cleanly and brilliantly. The soloists are all strong, especially Peter Schreier's glorious Evangelist. Helen Donath -- one of the greatest, most expressive and intelligent sopranos of our time -- absolutely shines in her two arias with gorgeous tone and brilliant color. And Julia Hamari, whom I did not know before, sings with a lovely richness and beauty.

The performance absolutely deserves five stars for the musical performance. But what is this with the arrogant, outrageous video direction?!

During every aria, the video director shows us close-up detail shots of a medieval painting of the Passion. Why are we forbidden to see the soloists, orchestra and conductor in such an outstanding and powerful performance? Instead, we're shown -- over and over -- slow-motion details of a static painting.

Lost is our opportunity to watch these brilliant, skilled and intelligent performers delivering their craft. It was so engaging to watch Schreier, Schramm and Nimsgern in the declamatory sections, and my heart fell with disappointment every time an aria began and the camera left the concert and returned to the painting.

In the entire piece, we see Helen Donath and Julia Hamari singing for about two phrases each. That's all!

The Matthew Passion DVD is coming out, too. I'll buy it for the musical performance, and I'll be happy to listen to the piece. But it's so depressing to know that the visual experience will be so limited.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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When I was in college in the `60s, Karl Richter's Bach performances were considered the ultimate in historically informed performance practice. They stood apart from the gigantic romantic approaches as exemplified by Furtwaengler, Klemperer and Herbert von Karajan. In America, the Richter LPs on the ARKIV label were sold in the better record shops - and as I recall, they were always imported from Germany and were a bit costly (especially for young people on a college budget). I adored Richter's B Minor Mass and St. Matthew and St. John Passions. When mono went out and stereo came in, I had to replace some of the stunning, linen-bound albums. I still have them, the discs only moderately crackly sounding despite their age.

What a joy to discover that back in those dark days of audio-only music at home, somebody actually filmed Richter in action! For me it's a nostalgic journey back into a past I never "saw," and with scratch-less, wonderfully high-fidelity audio beyond anything I could have imagined in college!

Of course, historically informed performance practice has left the once "purist" Richter far behind, and many younger people actually sneer at the work of a chorus and choir Richter himself created for the glory of Bach - and/or God, depending on one's understanding. I am old enough to see all musical paradigm shifts as a matter of fashion as much as anything else. Perhaps John Eliot Gardiner and Nikolaus Harnoncourt will be considered "impure" and sadly wrong-headed someday.

The major disappointment of this DVD release is the work of the film's director, Arne Arnbom, who never gives us a single establishing shot to let us know where we are or to give us any context for the endless close-ups of presumably medieval passion paintings. What church is this?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too bad the director had some new ideas March 13, 2007
This is a very satisfying performance if one closes ones eyes. Unfortunately, the director had the glorious idea to show images of some iconic depictions of the story being told. To make it more exciting zooming in and out of the same picture and moving back and forth on it with (almost) no end, attempts to bring the viewer closer to the story being told. The few in between videos of the performers showed a much more passionate view, however, as soon you locked to it the cartoon show starts again. I am amazed that DG tolerated that and Karl Richter released the DVD that essentially ruined his and his participant's very good performance, at least on DVD.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Richter is the best, but the direction is horrible! January 26, 2012
By Rafaela
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Richter is arguably the best interpreter of Bach, but the direction of this DVD is horrible! sloppy, tiresome, and we lost a major when you buy a DVD, the interpreters in performance! I do not recommend this version!
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment April 16, 2006
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It is with heavy heart that I feel compelled to assign this DVD only two stars for the performance which is just adequate and camera work which is distructive and annoying.

As a comparison I use the by now unavailable and excellent performance on VCR by the New Bach Gollegium Musicum under Max Pommer filmed at St. Thomas church in Leipzig (Films for the Humanities, Inc). The Richter orchestra and choir by far exceed the forces available and utilised at Bach's times. Why does Richter feel the need to double the number of flutes and oboes in the arias or utilise 4 double bases when 2 suffice is beyond me. Not only does it not add to the exquisite nature of the solo arias and the depth of their evocative message. It in fact detracts.

The overall playing of the orchestra is correct but lumbering. The choir, aside from the equally detracting big sound volume it produces sings extremely well. The soloists except for Laubenthal are superb, notably Hamari and Schrier who also peforms in the above mentioned Leipzig performance to which I must return at once. The Johannes Passion is totally different from the Matthaeus Passion conceptually and structurally.

The latter, from the starting chorus which includes an interpolated choral sung by soprano boys conveys compassion, mercy, inner peace in fact resignation to the innevitable outcome yet to be played out. The arias and the choruses are for the most parts soothing. The Johannes Passion is confrontational, aggressive and hostile towards 'the Jews'.

If in the Matthaeus the drama is an undercurrent, the Johannes' drama is explicit, unsettling and in your face. The catharsis culminates in the shattering and heart breaking aria "Es ist Vollbracht" sung beautifully by Ms. Hamari.
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