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John Eliot Gardiner’s Book on J.S. Bach to be Published by Knopf on Oct 29, 2013

Following decades of studying, performing and recording the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, John Eliot Gardiner turns to the written word to sum up his lifelong immersion in the composer’s music. Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf on October 29, 2013, is an unprecedented book about one of the greatest of all composers by his greatest modern interpreter. The book explains in wonderful detail how Bach worked, how his music is constructed, how it achieves its effects – and what it can tell us about Bach the man. It is grounded in all the most recent Bach scholarship but moves far beyond it, and takes us deeply into Bach’s works and mind.

As the jacket copy of the book notes: “Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most famously unfathomable composers in the history of music. How can such sublime work have been produced by a man who (when we can discern his personality at all) seems so ordinary, so opaque—and occasionally so intemperate?” The search for the answer to these questions is the subject of Gardiner’s book, which draws upon his singular, profound and decades-long experience researching, performing, recording and thinking about Bach’s music. This is a unique book about one of the greatest of all creative artists.

John Eliot Gardiner grew up passing one of the only two authentic portraits of Bach in existence every morning and evening on the stairs of his parents’ house, where it hung for safety during the Second World War. He has been studying and performing Bach ever since, and is now regarded as one of the composer’s greatest living interpreters. His numerous recordings of the great Bach Passions, the epic B minor Mass, and orchestral music have won many prizes and set a benchmark for interpretations of Bach’s music. In 2000, as the world celebrated the dawn of a new millennium, John Eliot Gardiner and his intrepid band of instrumentalists and choristers – the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir – set out for a Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, performing and recording the complete sacred cantatas in churches across Europe and in New York (2000 also marked the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death). A boxed set of these complete cantatas (56 CDs with a bonus CD featuring booklets and texts) will be available this fall (date TBC) from Gardiner’s record label, SDG, so named for the initials of the phrase that Bach wrote on each of the cantata scores: Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone. Gardiner, an inductee into the Gramophone Hall of Fame, recently won another coveted Gramophone Award for his recording of Bach’s motets with the Monteverdi Choir.

Gardiner explains Bach’s place in the history of music in a documentary about Bach’s music that aired on BBC 2 last March: “Bach’s legacy is assured. If Monteverdi was the first composer to find musical expression for human passion, Beethoven what a terrible struggle it is to be human but aspire to be God-like, and Mozart the kind of music we hope to hear in Heaven, Bach is the one who bridges the gap. He helps us to hear the voice of God, but in human form, ironing out the imperfections of humanity in the perfection of his music.”

Advance praise for BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven:

“A superb achievement, scholarly, lively, controversial and judicious. Like all great biographies of creative artists it builds a bridge from the past to the present and brings the work to new life.” –Ian Bostridge

Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven is a unique portrait of one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time by one of the greatest musical geniuses of our own age. John Eliot Gardiner uses his extraordinary immersion in Bach’s music to illuminate Bach the man more brilliantly than in any previous work, and has created his own deeply moving work of art.” –Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire

“John Eliot Gardiner’s book is, apart from anything else, a tremendous feat of narrative: he has the rare gift of always putting the camera in the right place. He tells this long and richly involved story in a way that makes everything clear, and sets the life and the music in a historical perspective where every detail is relevant and every comment illuminating. Simply as a biography this is splendid, but the fact that it comes with such a wealth of musical understanding and experience makes it invaluable. I learned an enormous amount, and I know I’ll return to it again and again.” –Philip Pullman

About the author

John Eliot Gardiner is one of the world’s leading conductors, not only of Baroque music but across the whole repertoire. He founded the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. He has conducted most of the world’s great orchestras and in many of the leading opera houses. He lives and farms in Dorset.

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© 21C Media Group, September 2013 




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