Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Christen, ätzet diesen tag BWV 63, in rehearsal
Arthaus DVD Release date: June 2002
Running time: 101'
Ann Monoyios, soprano
Sara Mingardo, alto
Rufus Müller, tenor
Stephan Loges, bass
English Baroque Soloists
conducted by John Eliot Gardiner
The In Rehearsal series continues to offer fascinating insights into the technique of conducting with this film about John Eliot Gardiner rehearsing Bach's Cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag BWV63. The venue is EMI's Abbey Road Studios, so there are the obligatory hackneyed shots of that zebra crossing at the beginning, but there's nothing else hackneyed about the rest of this engrossing film. The devil is in the detail: what Gardiner says about Bach and period performance (enlightening though it is) is less interesting than the way he says it. After one rousing chorus, for example, he leaves everyone breathless in silence while he digs some dirt from his fingernails before giving them a cool "Well done". A mild contretemps with the first trumpet leads to an interview in which the brass player nervously and darkly hints at even greater conflict under the surface of the rehearsal. It's remarkable to hear the sublime music-making that results despite, or perhaps because of, the tension: Gardiner continually urges the musicians to swing the beat and feel the pulse as if it were a dance, and they do.
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The final chorus Höchster schau in gnaden an:
The cantata Christen ätzet diesen Tag BWV 63, was heard on Christmas Day in the year 1723 in Leipzig; but in fact Bach had written it a decade earlier, in Weimar. Several features in this work point to an earlier date of composition, such as the absence of chorales and the da capo form of the framing choruses. But even in this comparatively early work many aspects of Bach's mature style can be recognised; the tendency towards symmetrical arrangement of the movements (chorus-recitative-aria-recitative-aria-recitative-chorus), the efforts to animate this symmetry through detailed contrasts,and most of all the art of vividly conveying the meaning of the text. Even in his later cantatas Bach hardly achieved a more expressive recitative than the one that follows the opening chorus here: O sel'ger Tag!
BWV63 Listener and student guide by Julian Mincham
Leipzig Christmas Cantatas:
Gelobet seist su, Jesu Christ BWV 91
Christum wir sollen loben schon BWV 121
Ich freue mich in dir BWV 133
Christen, ätzet diesen Tag BWV 63
Magnificat BWV 243a
Total playing time: 117:09
Dorothee Blotzky-Mields: soprano; Carolyn Sampson: soprano; Ingeborg Danz: alto; Mark Padmore: tenor; Peter Kooy: bass; Sebastian Noack: bass; Collegium Vocale Gent conducted by Philippe Herreweghe; d/l links