232 of 243 people found the following review helpful
A Report from the Field,
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This review is from: Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Hardcover)
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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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 1, 2013 11:51:43 AM PDT
La BugZ says:
a finely honed and considered review. I think I'll buy a copy of the book. Bach is endless. Centuries before now and unless the world crumbles, centuries after. Thank you.
Posted on Nov 4, 2013 8:34:57 PM PST
G. B. Anderson says:
does anyone know if an audio book version is planned and if so, when it might be available?
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2013 12:22:30 PM PST
I would think it will be some while before an audio version is available. This is a long and detailed book. I think it will first have to have quite good hardcover sales before the publisher will invest in the substantial cost of preparing an aural version.
It now seems to exists only as a hardcover, no paperback yet, and only Amazon.com (USA) has a Kindle edition, but I'm sure this will change. (The U.S. hardcover, I deduce, is the same as the British edition, which is no problem, and saves on a lot of unnecessary labor.)
Personally, I would not want an aural version as it might be quite awkward to listen to and to keep track of all the details and terms. Reading this fine book avoids a lot of unnecessary problems in absorption.
Just my thoughts. An aural edition may appear any week, but I'm dubious.
Posted on Nov 24, 2013 9:52:20 AM PST
Peter T. Wolf says:
Excellent review. It is the kind of I want to read. You tell me about THE BOOK and not the subject of the book. Reviews that just repeat what the book's subject is without describing the merits or demerits of the book itself, are useless.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2013 12:35:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 6, 2013 4:09:52 PM PST
Thank you. You seem to feel the same way I do about reviews.
I am now a bit over halfway - it takes longer to read with an underlining pencil in hand - and I can say again: this book it excellent. Gardner's style is easily informative, reasonably relaxed, and the many facts he presents really expand our picture of Bach's himself, his music, his methods of composing, the daunting conditions surrounding that composing. and even the chaos he had to overcome when presenting his music in church. Who would have thought the audiences in Leipzig's coffeehouses would have been more appreciative of his music, than the weekly congregations in his two churches.
At this point in the book, I can say some knowledge of Bach facilitates the book's reading, but at no point in my reading have I had to use a figurative machete to cut my way through any enveloping tangles of musicological prose. Gardner tells a detailed story well. In fact, after I've finished reading, I suspect I'll be sorry I can't buy him a long drink, sit down by a comfortable fireplace, and discuss the whole thing looking for any stray tidbits he might have found had got left out.
If anyone should be looking for more on Sir J. E. Gardner's credentials, on January 1, 2014 he will become President of the Bach Archive Foundation in Leipzig. This is a new position created for him because of his "profound academic knowledge of Bach's life and work", as reported in "Bach Notes", #19, the newsletter of the American Bach Society.
Update: Post #11 talks about a detailed recent review of the book in the New York Times and since then the Times has reviewed the book again! in conjunction with Geck's new book on Wagner.
Posted on Dec 2, 2013 12:41:48 AM PST
Thank you for your review. I got my copy today and like to add. Picture material is excellent, with plenty of new stuff to me, not only portraits, but also architectural pictures, calenders (essential in cantatas) etc. Book has a curious name, but it turned out to refer to some interesting piece of architecture, that has been destroyed a long time ago.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 5:00:36 AM PST
And thank you. Yes, the picture material is excellent and there is new stuff here. The calendars for the cantatas are excellent and most helpful. I also found the rendering of the interior of St. Thomas in the time of Bach to be particularly helpful in visualizing how it was in Bach's day. Not at all how it is today since it was redone many, many years ago. And the watercolor by Mendelssohn I have never seen before. It is quite beautiful.
I am up to chapter 11 now and making notes. The remaining chapters - I have previewed - are full of more material on Bach's life. I am reading slowing. This is too good a read to race through.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 10:04:38 AM PST
Doc W8 says:
Your review and comments are excellent. My husband is a Bach lover also, and will be getting this for Christmas, as will an organist friend. It is truly a pleasure to read notes such as yours. Now, for the Christmas Oratorio!! Cheers!
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2013 10:20:25 AM PST
Good, I'm enjoying it immensity. Have you heard any of his CDs, particularly the ones he made during the exciting and possibly heroic Bach 2000 tour around the world? He writes about it in the book, so may I suggest a CD of his to accompany the book. Can one have too much of Bach? And, further, I am very fond of a Swiss group - the Bach-Stiftung - which is recording the complete cantatas over 25 years. You can download a CD of theirs from Amazon. For me they have a wonderful tempo and are inexpensive. Number #9 is a great place to start. The group I listen to here is the terrific Washington Bach Consort, some of their CDs are also available on this site.Try some day to attend a Bashfest in Leipzig. I have and it makes a wonderful musical trip. I say this as a Bach lover, not for any personal profit. And, yes, next the Christmas Oratorio.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 3, 2013 10:54:56 AM PST
Yes, Mendelssohn wintry, very skilfully made watercolor of St Thomas was a suprise, Felix was a real jack-of-all trades!