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Bach;Johann Sebastian St. John

 NR (Not Rated)   DVD

Price: CDN$ 59.72
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious performance -- DREADFUL VIDEO DIRECTION March 15 2006
By Todd R. Schultz - Published on Amazon.com
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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious music superbly performed in a now unfashionable style Feb. 4 2009
By David E. Gregson - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
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? Whose paintings are they? Are they painted on a wall or in a book? Many, many times we do not even know exactly who is singing because the camera simply does not show us! Only at some spot well into the film do we get a glimpse of Richter switching from baton to sitting at the harpsichord. It is truly maddening! You almost have to see it to believe it. Richter has wonderfully expressive hands -- but we see them only very briefly in over two hours of music. At the end, only the faces of a few of the soloists remain distinct in one's mind. I was amused, however, that placards spelling out the texts of the chorales (in German) flash on screen when appropriate - so we can sing along at home!

The accompanying booklet is of no help in getting much more information about the venue or anything else. I think the church interior is the Monastery Church Diessen, Ammersee. I also am assuming the film is film and not videotape. I do not recall high quality videotape being in use in the late`60s or in 1971 (when the Richter Mass and Passions were imaged), but I may be wrong. Certainly the first VHS home recorder/players only began appearing in 1972, with the ultimately doomed Betamax format arriving about 1975. I'd love to more technical details about these Richter DVDs.

The audio balances, by the way, are way off from what one might hear in reality -- but it's difficult to complain about otherwise excellent stereo sound. Today's super-high standards, of course, are not to be expected.
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
By Gerhard Rotter - Published on Amazon.com
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (-) Dated camera direction marred a great performance. July 20 2014
By Abert - Published on Amazon.com
Karl Richter's second recorded St. Johannes-Passion of J. S. Bach, and on video.
He had at his disposal an entire team of 'young' (in 1970) soloists at their early prime: Schreier (evangelist), Schramm (Jesus), Nimsgern (Pilate, Peter), Hamari (contralto), Donath (Soprano) et. al.
The Munich Bach Choir and Munich Bach Orchestra represented the creme-de-la-creme of German classical musicians of that era.
Richter (entirely unlike Harnoncourt), adopts a sombre approach to this work. The large-scale ensemble provides an overwhelmingly powerful experience for listeners, if you could excuse the almost archaic approach of the cameraman.
My own guess at this camera direction is that it was meant to be a religious experience instead of artistic. The medieval pictures of the Passion of Christ depicted throughout the performance carries no other meaning than a parallel religious meditative experience. I tried to follow this approach and it does saved me a considerable amount of 'disappointment'. Yet, the cameraman is strange in shooting the lutist instead of the singer in the bass solo. It is small incidences such as these that cast grave doubt on the viewers as to the true intention of the camera direction.
Back to the performance itself. It is a real marvel to watch a young Peter Schreier singing the demanding part of Evangelist. Though only recitatives, the inflections of this role as the Passion enfolds are immense, and the utter ease the eloquence of Schreier's rendition alone is worth the price of this item, let alone we have Karl Richter conducting a wonderful orchestra and chorus.
Other soloists include the young Donath, Hamari, Schramm, Nimsgern and one bass (I do not seem to have 'watched' his performance, though). All sing gloriously, though personally I would tend to swap Schramm with Nimsgern for the latter's more authoritative and deeply felt singing.
All in all, for the soloists (seen or unseen) alone, this performance is well-nigh unsurpassed. If you are a HIP aficionado and would not care for the conducting, etc., you would do no wrong watching the singers alone.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Richter is the best, but the direction is horrible! Jan. 26 2012
By Rafaela - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
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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