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Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven [Hardcover]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read that I recommend Nov. 25 2013
By Sheilah HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I picked up this book because, I will admit, of the title. Something about it just drew my fascination, and then upon reading what it is about I bought it out of curiosity. I had never before really wondered about Bach's life, but this book sparked my interest.

First off, let me say, it is indeed a long read, being over 500 pages, yet it is a fascinating read. The research that must have been needed to be done, paired with an eloquent writing style and splashes of humour made the book one where you want to read every page thoroughly, and are always curious as to what is next.

I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who likes biographies, as well as for anyone with a passion for classical music.

Should you buy? yes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on J S Bach Jan. 3 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been collecting and devouring books on the life and music of J S Bach for over 50 years, beginning with Spitta. Gardiner's tome, not a standard biography nor a systematic musicological analysis of works (it doesn't even bother with a catalogue!), is by far the best book on Bach. The author takes us through the life experiences and musical meanders that led him to the "authentic" Bach and his lifelong search to catch glimpses of the man through his music. He is in every respect successful in that endeavor. Bach connaisseurs will appreciate the intimacy and the fluidity of Sir John's loving dissections of the cantatas, and other sacred works, all of which he obviously knows note-by-note and word-by-word, and his novel ability to show how words dictated a musical mood, hence intonation, voicing, orchestration, tempo, all described and explained in straightforward and lucid terms. If you want to know all about Bach from one book, this is it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a biography March 14 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a comprehensive biography of Bach this is not it. The majority of the book is analysis of his choral works by a real authority which a lot of people would enjoy. The solo works, concertos, etc.. don't get touched and Gardiner is upfront about that. To tell you the truth, I got bored by the attempt to glean biographical and psychological information from the music and contemporary writing and not from real biographical fact. Gardiner also has a habit of putting quotes in which have no contextual relevance to the subject, they are just quotes he likes that kind of fit the subject matter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful gift for a music lover Feb. 16 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book was purchased as a birthday gift for a lover of all things Bach. Unfortunately it was
only received 13 Feb.for a birthday on the 10 and so my look was cursory. The book does
impress, beautiful presentation, great illustrations, appears very well researched and a
brilliant author. I would not hesitate to recommend this book as a gift for any lover of great
music.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  95 reviews
176 of 183 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Report from the Field Nov. 1 2013
By Bach Lover - Published on Amazon.com
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.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great biography that provides a bit different, more human side, of the musical maestro... Nov. 28 2013
By Denis Vukosav - Published on Amazon.com
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.

"Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven" is an excellent book that can be recommended to all lovers of classical music, especially Bach's fans for the providing a bit different, more human side, of the musical maestro, a book that despite the comprehensiveness, it is easy and interesting to read until last of its pages.
62 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding revelation of Bach's choral works for those who know music. Nov. 28 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended to Bach lovers Jan. 8 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gardiner's reputation as a musician needs no comment, but as an historian he competes with the best in this book. His attention to detail, historical analysis, and measured conclusions from incomplete fact set this book apart from biographies of adulation. for readers who want to delve beneath his extensive analysis he provided copious footnotes with further analysis.
To understand Bach Gardiner presents an excellent cultural history of the 17th and 18th centuries as well as a superb musical history of the other 'class of 1685' musicians and those who proceeded them. He has a wonderful grasp of the evolution of historical phenomena--how one person is both unique but part of a tradition.
This is a dense, multilayered and erudite work and highly recommended to serious readers.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Eliot in the Castle of Heaven Jan. 9 2014
By Johannes Climacus - Published on Amazon.com
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. His charting of Bach's creative development, through the seasons and struggles of his career calls our attention anew to the status of the sacred music--particularly the Cantatas--as a kind of spiritual journal recounting the consolations and desolations of a fragile, fallible genius who also happened to be something of a mystic. For Gardiner, in the end, Bach's sacred-musical testament amounts to the bravest and most brilliant of stands against the depredations of our human condition at its most terrifying--and *for* the transcendence to the rapture of creativity fitfully but effectually points.

I cannot recommend this work highly enough. Its pages will afford a fresh encounter with the composer, even if you have been studying his works and his commentators (as I have) for nearly a lifetime. But even more tellingly perhaps, you will encounter John Eliot Gardiner in a new way--as an accomplished writer and winsomely humane scholar.
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