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Additional Information

Bach Movies: Bach's Life & Documentaries: Index by Title | Index by Year
Filmed Performances: Index by Work | Index by Main Performer
Bach's Music in Soundtracks: Index by Title | Index by Year
General: Index by Number | Discussions of Movies on Bach

Movies on Bach

Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach

Ume [Tokyo] wrote (April 21, 2002):
This is not CD, but "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" DVD will release in Japan.

Maybe you couldn't read this, but this is Japanese DVD about film "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" link.
(copy this to address section then push!)

Film detail are

DVD region is 2 and NTSC, but It's new master by director, and good quarity. It will release 25 May.... (I wrote biography for musicians, so I knew... I mention about Ms. Drewanz [Christiane Lang], and Andreas Pangritz too, but no space for Karl Heinz Klein and Crista Degler [of course I wrote about young Bernd Weikl and Wolfgang Schone]).

This is very inportant film for Bach fan, so if possible to see NTSC DVD, try to get it.... (but it's Japan press...).

Riccardo Nughes wrote (April 21, 2002):
[To Ume] Great news Ume!
It is a wonderful and very rare film.


New J.S. Bach Video

Tim Frakes wrote (August 7, 2002):
J.S. Bach: A Lutheran Treasure

MOSAIC, the video magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is producing a 30-minute video documentary on the life of J.S. Bach titled, J.S. Bach: A Lutheran Treasure. The video will be released on December 1, 2002.

The 30-minute video will introduce the life of J.S. Bach to a new generation of Lutherans by tracing his life from birth to death. Specifically the video will focus on the relationship between Bach's faith and his work.

"Many Christians don't know who Bach was." said producer, Tim Frakes. "We want to introduce or re-introduce J.S. Bach and his music to an entirely new generation of Christians in America who may not be aware of the rich musical heritage that exists in the body of work J.S. Bach left for future generations."

"Today we think secular and sacred music are different like fire and water." said Christoph Wolff in an excerpt from his interview for the program. "For Bach, the music was alike whether it was made to praise the king of Poland or praise the King of Heaven." Wolff added.

The video features original footage, shot on location in Eisenach, Ohrdruf, Weimar, Köthen, Mühlhausen and of course, Leipzig. The video will also showcase insights from noted J.S. Bach scholars Christoph Wolff, Robin Leaver and guitar virtuoso Christopher Parkening.

MOSAIC is the video magazine of the ELCA which represents 11,000 congregations in the United States and the Carribean. MOSAIC is a documentary video series distributed nationally on VHS video tape to subscribing congregations on a quarterly basis.

Copies of the program are available from MOSAIC for $19.95 each, including shipping and handling. The video comes with an enclosed study guide for use in adult forums and small group discussions.


Johann Sebastian Bach

Francine Renee Hall wrote (August 8, 2002):
Here's an extensive list of Bach at the movies! It seems, though, that Bach's music is sometimes portrayed in a negative light, seen as mechanical or 'evil'. I remember hearing Bach's first Prelude to the WTC in an early / original 'Outer Limits' episode where David Macullum evolves into a creature too smart for his own good while playing Bach!

Donald Satz wrote (August 8, 2002):
[Tio Francine Renee Hall] Nothing wrong with the 'evil' portrait - Bach covered all the emotional bases.


“The Life Of Bach” on A&E

Pete Blue wrote (October 20, 2002):
The Arts & Entertainment Network, familiar to cable TV subscribers throughout North America, has as I write just finished presenting on their regular Sunday morning program "Breakfast With The Arts" a terrific 50-minute segment on Bach hosted by pianist Robert Levin. Unfortunately, "BWTA" is the one program on A&E which is not re-run ad infinitum, so i don't know if it will ever be shown again, though I have an inkling that this is a video that A&E did not originate but borrowed. Also, I got the impression that Robert Levin has written a book on Bach's life and works of which this is sort of a promo, but I see no indication that it has been or will be published. Can anyone add to this?


Bach: The Composer (A&E)

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 12, 2003):
Did anyone see the cable broadcast on Bach's life and his works? I thought the film summarized Bach's uniqueness with great excitement and clarity. Among the commentators were: Christoph Wolff, Peter Hurford, Sir John Eliot Gardiner; Joanna MacGregor; Ton Koopman, András Schiff and a few others. It was interesting to see both harpsichord and piano being used as educational tools. One particularly interesting comparison was made between Handel and Bach. For the Händel the pianist played out Theodora's main theme. It was airy, open and light. He then compared a similar theme as written by Bach (I think he took an example from the SMP (BWV 244); correct me if I'm wrong). Bach used more notes, richer harmonies and dissonance, something that later modernists liked to use. In other words, Bach's inner lines are just as interesting as his outer lines. It was also fun to see Joanna G. play on the harpsichord (I own her French and English Suites on piano). She explained that old tuning was on thirds and fifths so people like Byrd were pretty much stuck to the key of C and had to enhance it by making lots of right hand runs. I think she also stated that the key of D is nice and bright. Bach also upset the Lutheran congregation when he was expected to play straightforward hymns without embellishments. That he broke tradition makes me realize that Bach is the closest thing to 'jazz' back then because he was always embellishing, either by runs or harmonics. And, finally, Gardiner mentioned something that my gut already knew: that the B-moll Mass was written over a long period of time, thus containing styles that are Renaissance in nature and high Baroque in other movements.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] The "pianist" was Charles Rosen, and I, as one totally uneducated in music, have found his explanations to be fascinating.

The comparison you've mentioned was between two concluding choruses of "great religious works" [his words] - Händel's Theodora [Oh, love Devine] and Bach's SMP [Wier Setzen].

Also on the same program were several scenes from the Miller-Goodwin staged SMP, recently mentioned here on the List.

Gene Hanson wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Do you know if this is available for purchase? I missed it.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] I checked amazon and they didn't have it. I don't even know if these A&E cable programs are available on DVD. It would be nice if they were.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Thanks for the little bits of info.!!!

Gene Hanson wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Thanks, Francine. The reason I asked is that PBS programs are often available. I thought that's what it was.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 1, 2003):
< And, finally, Gardiner mentioned something that my gut already knew: that the B-moll Mass (BWV 232) was written over a long period of time, thus containing styles that are Renaissance in nature and high Baroque in other movements. >
Though, interestingly, the most Renaissance-like pieces in the Mass are not the earliest. The Gratias was originally written as the second movement (first chorus) of Cantata BWV 29, dating from 1731; the Second Kyrie -- which displays a mixture of "old" and "new" traits -- is 1733 (though, if it is a parody, its unknown original version might be earlier); the Credo and Confiteor are from the late 1740s -- the last years of Bach's life. Of course, none of these pieces would be mistaken for actual 16th century polyphony; but the influence is definitely there, and Bach probably wanted listeners to perceive it.In general, Bach's intensive study into Renaissance polyphony -- and the resulting stile antico pieces -- date mostly from the last two decades of his life.

The earliest source for the Mass, as far as modern scholarship is aware, is "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen", the second movement of Cantata BWV 12 (1714), which was transformed into the "Crucifixus".

Olle Hedström wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] The program you refer to is available on DVD. I've seen it numerous times. It's totally captivating from the first minute to the last. Highly recommended to all Bachlovers.

Bradley Lehman qrote (June 12, 2003):
Francine Renee Hall wrote:
< It was also fun to see Joanna G. play on the harpsichord (I own her French and English Suites on piano). She explained that old tuning was on thirds and fifths so people like Byrd were pretty much stuck to the key of C and had to enhance it by making lots of right hand runs. >
She said that? That's a crass and degrading impression of Byrd's work. A person who has spent sufficient time playing Byrd's keyboard music using 16th and 17th century temperaments would never say such a thing...!

Byrd's music, in particular, is so fully packed with clever little contrapuntal bits and rhythmic richness, and contrasting keys from section to's hard to imagine how anybody could dismiss his music as "lots of right hand runs" from being "stuck to the key of C." John Bull and Thomas Tomkins also used wonderfully expressive contrapuntal textures. These guys were masters of the chromatic nuances available in unequal temperaments; they weren't "stuck" anywhere.

It just sounds like a demeaning comment from a player who has never given this music a serious chance, and who hasn't spent much time outside equal temperament. (By the way, I do think Joanna MacGregor is a terrific pianist.)

Tom Brannigan wrote (June 12, 2003):
Olle Heldsröm writes:
< The program you refer to is available on DVD. I've seen it numerous times. It's totally captivating from the first minute to the last.Highly recommended to all Bachlovers Olle Hedström, Sweden >
I just checked the A&E website and then phoned their toll free number 1-888-423-1212 and neither source has any knowledge of production entitled "The Composer". They have programs on Mozart & Beethoven, but not on Bach. The young lady I talked to cross-freferrenced anything remotely close...........but No success.

Are you sure it's an A&E program?????? I would sure like to track it down.

Roy Johansen wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Tom Brannigan] It looks like it could be the Bach instalment of BBC's Great Composers series:
In the US it appears only to be available as part of the whole set (the other composers are: Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, and Mahler), and only on VHS. In Europe you can find it on DVD coupled with the program on Mozart. Maybe this is the excuse we needed to get that zone-free DVD player? :)

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks for all the great info concerning Bach's great B-moll mass!

Hi Olle, Tom and Roy--

And thanks for telling me that there is hope to find the cable program on DVD!

and Hi Brad--

I think Joanna was being a bit simplistic for comparison purposes: old style versus well- tempered style.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Maybe one could see a parallel with Schütz who stressed the importance of 'old-fashioned' polyphony in one of his later publications, the 'Geistliche Chormusik' of 1648. Although he had composed in the style of the 'seconda prattica' the largest part of his life he wanted to underline the fundamental importance of polyphony for every composer.

The 'Geistliche Chormusik' was intended, acoording to Schütz, to encourage the beginning student of composition to learn the "true foundation of good counterpoint" before working in the concertante style.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 12, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Schütz is a great favorite of mine too. I know he was influenced by Monteverdi, but I recall in a history book that he returned to German choral tradition because the Thirty Years' War made instrument making the lowest of priorities.

Gene Hanson wrote (June 13, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] Do you know the title of the DVD?

How is the weather in Sweden? It was surprisingly hot when I visited last summer. Loved your country (from which my paternal grandparents emigrated).

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 13, 2003):
[To Olle Heldström & Gene Hanson] I think I found the title; is coupled with Mozart. But it uses PAL, something I don't have. Thanks again.

Francine Renee Hall wrote (June 13, 2003):
Here's a close-up of the Bach DVD:

Pete Blue wrote (June 13, 2003):
[To Roy Johansen] Unfortunately, Roy is absolutely correct. Accordng to my search (maybe others are more reseourceful), if you live in the USA or Canada and have an NTSC VCR you apparently have to buy the whole series ($90 at Tower or Amazon), There are no DVDs of the series (either individually or as a set) in Region 1 format. Quel dommage.

Olle Hedström wrote (June 13, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] It's from the ¨BBC TV-series "Great composers", 1997-1998. Mozart's life and work is also included on this DVD. I think it is only available in Europe, though. See the link below. It's a wonderful BBC documentary on Bach's work. It's even more thrilling to watch for me now, since I recently (Easter 2003), made my life's second journey in the footsteps of JSB in Sachsony and Turinghia.The first one was in 1975. This one was easily the journey of my life.I can tell you more about it if you like. I'm afraid it's off topic in this group.

Last summer was one of the hottest summer in Sweden for decades.I'm pleased that you liked it here:

Gene Hanson wrote (June 13, 2003):
Olle Hedström wrote:
< It's a wonderful BBC documentary on Bach's work. It's even more thrilling to watch for me now, since I recently(Easter 2003), made my life's second journey in the footsteps of JSB in Sachsony and Turinghia.The first one was in 1975. This one was easily the journey of my life.I can tell you more about it if you like. I'm afraid it's off topic in this group. >
Why off topic? In either event, I'd love to hear about it.

< Last summer was one of the hottest summer in Sweden for decades.I'm pleased that you liked it here. >
Loved it would be more accurate.



Bach Movie

Murillo R. Moreira wrote (October 30, 2003):
Is there any video or movie based on the life of J.S.Bach???

Craig Schweicker wrote (Oc30, 2003):
[To Murillo R. Moreira] Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach (1968), which stars none other than Gustav Leonhardt as the composer. I haven't seen it and it's not out on video or DVD. For info, including a plot summary, cast listing and reviews, see:

(Was tickled to see that GL's movie credits include Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and Ingmar Bergman's Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata), as a musician not an actor, tho'.)/

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Murillo R. Moreira] There was one with Gustav Leonhardt playing the part of JSB, and Bob van Asperen and Nikolaus Harnoncourt also having roles. I'd like to see it someday....

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Murillo R. Moreira] I've heard of one featuring Gustav Leonhardt.

Adam Stange (Reggie Mobley) wrote (October 30, 3003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Actually that movie has been on video and dvd here in Japan for quite some time. if anyone is interested in a copy, i would be more than willing to pick up a few copies and mail them off for anyone, as i'm sure anyone else on this list living in Nippon would be willing to do. also should have it as well.

Murillo R. Moreira wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Adam Strange] How kind you are. Typically for a bach lover.
How can I get a copy of this movie? I live near you... Brasil :)

There is a lot of interst in Brasilian music in Japan, I have a Vinyl Store with a lot of brazilian music, samba, and all that kind of stuff, if you have any interest in become my agent there at Japan I would be loved to.

By the way, Murillo Bach Moreira
´cause ribeiro means "little river" also as Bach, although, beethoven once said "His name (Bach) had to be OCEAN instead of little river..." Sorry for my poor english.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (October 30, 2003):
also should have it as well.

Also hmv:

BTW this summer at Locarno Film Festival was premiered another film about Bach life (especially his visit to Federick in Berlin : many historical liberties but a fine movie to see) "Mein name ist Bach"

Olle Hedström wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Reggie Mobley] PLEASE send me a DVD copy of the film "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" How much money shall I send you ?

John Pike wrote (October 30, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach", dir. Straub, Germany 1967, is a wonderful film, but it shows Bach's life with all the sadness. Not easy viewing but highly recommended. I have seen it several times.

Reggie Mobley wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To John Pike] Do me a favor, for everyone who needs a copy of the "Chronicle of Anna "I can't BELIEVE I had 13 kids" Magdalena Bach" please just mail me your name and address to my mobile phone <>
and I will try to get it out to y'all within the next week. i'm off tonight to check the price, and i will post that tomorrow morning, in case you want to wait for that.

Santu De Silva wrote (November 3, 2003):
Olle Hedström wrote to Reggie:
>>> PLEASE send me a DVD copy of the film "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach" How much money shall I send you ? <<<
Will a Japanese DVD work in the US?

Olle Hedström wrote (November 3, 2003):
[To Santu De Silva] It sure will in Europe, if you have "a region free DVD-player", which is not unusual here. I don't know about the US.

Reggie (Adam Strange) wrote (November 4, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] Its my friday, all the christmas shows have opened here so rehearsals are over. I have the next two days off (thank GOODNESS!!!). So tomorrow i will go check out the prices and let you all know. please realize that the cost of living in Tokyo is HIGH. a cd can run the equivalent of 30 US Dollars and a DVD can be as highly priced as 70 USD. If I werent here on Tokyo Disney's dollar, i could not afford to live here. so I will get you the price first, just to make sure you dont think it is TOO much.


A Bach film for children

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 18, 2004):
Last night I watched our public library's copy of this children's film:
"Bach's Fight for Freedom".
A synopsis is available their at their site. Sort of a "follow your heart" movie of character, set at the end of Bach's Weimar job.

Entertaining. And they really play young Bach (age 32) as a hot-head...a little mix of the Shaffer/Hulce Mozart in the character, too. The Bach here seemed to be about on the verge of a nervous breakdown, about half the time. Some of the other characters criticized him for his regular excess of emotions.

Some nice scenery of Bohemia, where they filmed was a Canadian/Czech co-production. A blase soundtrack: a bunch of the best-known Bach pieces schlocked together, with some very weird transitions and ending points, and wrong notes (on purpose, to illustrate Bach's frustration on a hot and noisy day, conditions so bad he couldn't concentrate).

Worth the 53-minute investment, just for fun.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 20, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yes, the younger Bach was quite a character. He was bull-headed when confronted with discipline issues or criticism, enthusiastic in regards to his chosen profession, a real pioneer in many ways in music history (especially in his use of Chromaticism and Dissonance, which he probably learnt from Buxtehude), a lover of life, a real zealot in regards to personal devotion to the Almighty (which, in this regard, was a throwback to Martin Luther himself, especially in the field of the sanctity of the call [by call, I mean one's employment, whether at home or at the workplace]), very self-confident (almost to the point of self-centeredness). Yet he was also very modest, religiously very conservative, and unoretentiously humble. One good example of this was his characteristic statement about his performance on the organ: "Anyone can play like me. All one has to do is hit the keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself."

However, at the period which was depicted in the movie, Bach was really at the end of his rope. His joint employers, Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his nephew, Prince Ernst AUgust, were on very bad terms with each other. About a month or so before the incident depicted in the film, Duke Wilhelm Ernst had forbidden any of his employees (which included Bach) from having any relations with Ernst August (and in some of the places I have read, with Prince Johann Ernst as well). As Bach was jointly employed by both men, he felt that this was very unfair. He had also had employment waiting for him from Prince Ernst August's new Brother-in-Law, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen. In the interim before the final break, Bach went to his famous duel with Louis-Claude Marchand in Dresden. His reception in Dresden (along with his win-by-default over Marchand) probably added more fuel to the fire, and when he was back in Sachse-Weimar, Bach became more forceful and fanatical about his release. As all know, this ended up with Bach being cast in prison for about a month before finally being let go. This also led to a long period (perhaps still ongoing[?]) in which Weimar refused to honor his memory. Any and all records of his employment there have been intentionally destroyed (or at least damaged). There is no monument to his memory there.

What I wish is that they made a movie based on the recording "Mr. Bach comes to call" like they did with "Beethoven lives upstairs". Has anyboady heard of them doing this?

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 20, 2004):
Bach film fchildren - Classical Kids

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< What I wish is that they made a movie based on the recording "Mr. Bach comes to call" like they did with "Beethoven lives upstairs". Has anyboady heard of them doing this? >
I worked as writer of several of the CD's in the Classical Kids series. Although there is no plan at present to produce a film of the Bach CD, those of you who are Baroque-minded might be interested in knowing that I adapted my scripts for "Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery" and "Hallelujah Handel" for live performance and they are regularly presented by orchestras around North

For further info and audio clips visit

I also adapted the Handel production as a children's book published by Scholastic Press. Vivaldi will be published next year:


"Mein Name ist Bach"

Charles Francis wrote (May 11, 2004):
I recently had the opportunity to watch this prize winning film about Bach's trip to the court of Frederick The Great. Not too bad actually, although little things like the tone of the supposed fortepiano were disconcerting. The film departs from the historical record somewhat, but after all who knows what really happened? For example, regarding the origin of Musical Offering theme, the action is as follows: Frederick the Great, while having his daily massage, comes up with an "irregular" five note theme and then goes to Quantz to develop it for him. Quantz performs a poor improvisation, never thinking to extend the theme. Then Bach arrives and with all assembled is given the Royal Theme as a subject for a fugue. He politely points out to the audience (Professor Quantz etc.) that the theme is incomplete (it stops on the leading tone) and thus unsuitable for a fugue. He pauses for a few seconds and then plays the 5 royal notes very slowly followed by the completion of the theme as we know it today. He doesn't bother to improvise the fugue, however, as the audience is already suitably impressed by the mere feat of completing the theme in such a chromatic manner. All quite plausible, really.

Olle Hedström wrote (May 11, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Where can I find this film "Mein Name ist Bach" ?

Charles Francis wrote (May 11, 2004):
[To Olle Hedström] Just type the title into Google. Here's a couple of links in English:


Leonhardt TV

Jill Gunsell wrote (December 4, 2004):
Does anyone recall a couple of German TV drama-documentaries (from the 1970s or 1980s?) in which Gustav Leonhardt donned period costumes to play the roles of (a) Bach and (b) Vivaldi. (I am not making this up.) I saw both in VHS when staying in Germany a few years ago and would like to find them if possible. Googling has got me nowhere.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] The first was a feature film called The Chronicle of Anna-Magdalena Bach, where GL played Bach, and performed some interesting music, including the long opening shot.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] You most problbably referring to "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach", a movie from 1968, in which Gustav Leonhardt 'plays' the role of J.S. Bach. See:

Riccardo Nughes wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Jill Gunsell] It was 1967 Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach by Straub-Huillet:
It has been released on DVD in Japan only:

and (b) Vivaldi. (I am not making this up.)

Never heard or seen this...are you sure?

Jill Gunsell wrote (December 4, 2004):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
< Vivaldi. [... ] Never heard or seen this...are you sure? >
Hm. Now that you give me pause for thought, no-o-o... !

Thanks to all who have told me about the Anna Magdalena Bach film.

Glenn S. Burke wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Kirk McElhearn] I just purchased this as a region-0 DVD on ebay. The seller accepts PayPal, claims to ship internationally (from California, US), and has listed another one:

Mine hasn't arrived yet.

I don't remember where I found out about this. Maybe just CD liner notes, but I seem to remember seeing pictures on a web page.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 4, 2004):
[To Glenn S. Burke] Leonhardt's photo at the lower right corner of his bio:
is taken from the movie "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach". The photo was contributed by Dr. Graziano Fronzuto.


Bach Documentary this Sunday

Carl Grapentine wrote (March 15, 2005):
I'm honored to be the narrator for the following release:

"Glory to God Alone: The Life of J.S. Bach," is a television documentary written and produced in Germany a few years ago. It will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on Palm Sunday, March 20, at 12:00 noon Eastern and Pacific times. (11:00 a.m. Central time; check local listings for Mountain time).

"Glory to God Alone: The Life of J.S. Bach" is an expansion of a 2002 Mosaic television production of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Awarded the DeRose-Hinkhouse Memorial Award for best in class, the broadcast features scenes from Eisenach, Ohrdruf, Weimar, Köthen, Mühlhausen and, of course, Leipzig--and showcases insights from noted J. S. Bach scholars Christoph Wolff, Robin Leaver, Mary Greer and guitar virtuoso Christopher Parkening. This version includes a vocal ensemble and orchestra, recorded at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Chicago.

Hope you can see it.



Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (July 30, 2005):
From time to time I see a CD in the stores that says on the front words to the effect that IF you think you saw The Passion, here is the real Passion to hear. It consists of excerpts by two different conductors from each of the two J.S.B. extant passions. Its blurb is referencing the Gibson movie. As I recall, not sure, one of the two conductors is Gönnenwein and the attempt is to capitalize on the movie and get some persons who would not normally be the Bach target audience to invest. I shall not discuss the movie which I have not seen.


Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2006):
The DVD version of the Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is available on Netflix now and thus be available elsewhere too.

Robin Kinross wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Yes, but "elsewhere" means "in North America only". That DVD format won't play in Japan, Europe, Australia, China, etc, will it?

From a remark at: one can imagine that Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet haven't been interested in getting their marvellous films out on DVD or video. I can imagine that they don't like the image degration involved. I somehow doubt that we non-North-Americans will be permitted to see the film again, except when projected through celluloid onto a big screen.

Olle Hedström wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] To all interested in the DVD "Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach"

I bought it directfrom the Japanese company Kinokuniya LTD two years ago on DVD, region 2:

No English subtitles though. German dialogue. A 'must-have' for every Bach lover.

David Hitchin wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] In Europe most DVD players have the capacity to play non-European DVDs. Entering an unlocking code makes them multi-regional capable. Nearly all televisions sold in Europe now can handle NTSC as well as PAL encoding.

Michael Noonan wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] unlocking codes for DVD players - sounds magical. any abracadabra clue to this spell ?

David Hitchin wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Michael Noonan] Well, as you asked, on my DVD player: Press pause, enter 314159, then 0, press pause again, turn off the power for a few moments, and it will play DVDs from any region.

Yours is probably different. See: or Google for similar sites if your model doesn't appear there.

Note that most recent European televisions can accept NTSC output from a DVD player, but if the picture doesn't appear in colour it may be necessary to move a switch on the back of the set, or to change a menu option.

Michael Noonan wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] Many thanks. I will go off to try. I want to do something similar with the DVD on my laptop which has a limited number of lives. I may find the answer to my problem following the web ref. Many thanks.

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Robin Kinross] I'm not sure about commercial players, but computer DVD players usually have software that allow them to play discs from all regions.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To David Hitchin] In other words, feed it a nice piece of pi and it gets happy and cooperative. I could use a slice of key lime pie myself right about now.

How is Leonhardt's acting in that film? (I haven't seen it yet.)

Has anybody else here seen the fairly recent Kultur video that has Robert Levin taking the roles of JSB and of narrator? There are scenes of him walking in to jam in a Brandenburg Concerto session (on harpsichord), thumbing a carriage ride up to the city, or otherwise variously trying out keyboards. This video also has interviews with quite a few others, and some longish sessions with Ton Koopman at the organ console.

José de Anchieta wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Michael Noonan] Please be careful trying these procedures. Not all DVD player make region control by means of software but through programware instead. If yours is the case you may damage your DVD player's main board as it happened to mine.

John Pike wrote (January 22, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] I love that Straub film. I've seen it several times. It shows it as it probably was...all the arguments with authority, children dying, life with the warts and all, beautiful music produced in the hardest of circumstances. It is very austere. Leonhardt isn't a great actor but that doesn't matter here...the harpsichord playing, from the stunning very opening sequence onwards, is superb. I can understand this film wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it gets my vote.

Robin Kinross wrote (January 23, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< How is Leonhardt's acting in that film? (I haven't seen it yet.) >
"Acting" isn't really what he does in this film. But then "acting" isn't quite what anyone does in Straub/Huillet films. They are a strange conjunction of naturalism and non-naturalism. Experimental and critical, very much in the spirit of those times: the Chronik der AMB is from 1967. In several respects the Straub/Huillet approach parallels the Early Music / HIP ideas of that time, and in this film the overlap is there in the subject matter too.

The Chronik is about the opposite of a play/film like "Amadeus", not to mention conventional biopics.

(Thanks to the people who gave advice about playing N. American DVDs)


Anna Magdalena DVD

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 30, 2006):
Watched "Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach" last night. Real mixed feelings. I'm not sure that it is a biography in any meaningful sense of the word. The short narrative sequences function to introduce the next piece of featured music. (At least, contrary to the Netflix description, the movie does nothing to suggest that Bach and Anna were unhappy with each other. It doesn't suggest anything about Bach's emotional life other than the well known squabbles with the Leipzig nobs. As Wolff points out there isn't much we know about Bach's day to day life so the film makers can be excused for not turning the flick into either Sleepless in Seattle or Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf.) In short this is kind an anti-Amadeus. Jean Marie Straub who was the film's major creator is interviewed (in 1967) on a nice short included on the DVD and explains that he did not want Bach's music to be used as a sound track. What isn't really clear to me is if the biography is so perfunctory and utterly stripped of emotion (Straub claims to be striving to "naturalism": kinda odd as I've never met a real human made of the kind of marble portrayed by Leonhardt and all of the other actors involved) why not skip it altogether and simply do a period instrument concert? It's a kick to watch Leonhardt and the other musicians do their job at the very beginning of the period instrument movement. The music is also well selected in my view. Unfortunately it does not seem as though the film was remastered in any way. Rather it was simply put on DVD. Consequently the sound is quite poor - a major flaw in a work where the music, not any actor, is the star. But it's interesting and I think most on the list would find the rental price well worth it. Don't think I'd buy it though.

Santu de Silva wrote (January 30, 2006):
The movie was made around 1965, long before Amadeus, and it is not difficult to understand the objective of the directors, given the interviews as well as the insert of the DVD. It is quite reasonable to try to fit it into our various pre-defined categories: biography, or something more Amadeus-like (a fantasy)?

But it is just as reasonable to expect to fail. There's a lot of movies that do not fall into the category of straight biography, simply because it is not interesting for the director/producer/writer, and audiences are not particularly drawn to them either. I still don't know what to call Immortal Beloved.

What these folks have tried to do is, I believe, to create a pseudo-documentary. By using costumes and period performances (as well as they knew how to, in 1967), they succeed in creating an illusion of distance in time that must have made the subject-matter more interesting (in 1967) than the early 20th-century reverence of Bach that gave the amateur music lover only a very limited taste of what Bach was all about. (All the chamber orchestra music has been widely available only since 1950.) It is this glamorization of the distance in time - - "distressed restoration" as someone describes it - - that was in part responsible for the great explosion of interest in the baroque in the years following the 1960s.

The woodenness of the actors (basically Bach/Leonhardt himself) is all of a piece of the desired "distressed reconstruction"; we see it from the wrong end of a telescope. And I think it works very well.

(I don't think there was any attempt to depict that AMB and JSB had marital problems; quite the contrary. As far as I'm concerned, their marital problems, if there indeed were any, are irrelevant if they could not be shown to have affected his music in specific ways. And even if it did, I for one would not be particularly interested!)

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 31, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva] Just to make things clear, I am well aware that Amadeus was made long after Anna Magdalena: I made the comparison simply to point out that the two films are polar opposites in style and intent. (I once read aninterview by Peter Shaffer and, as I recall, he said his play was not intended to be biographical in any way. The play revolved around genius and envy, not Mozart. I must say that Forman's gloomy Vienna was one of the best period reconstructions that I've seen on film. But Forman had an invaluable aid in that regard: I visited Prague not long before the film was made and the central city looked like something out of the 18th century. Thankfully the worker's paradise there didn't have the will or funds to mess much with any part of the city that was intact. And Prague, unlike any other city central Europe, escaped damage from WWII. That said, the city center was in a sad state of repair: the Velvet Revolution came just in time. Anna Magdalena is very much about Bach - he's the only character portrayed. Anna sits at a harpsichord and narrates: everyone else is essentially an extra.) Also it was Netflix that described marital discord as being a theme of the film, an impression that certainly escaped me while watching it.

The argument that the film was meant to create "distressed reconstruction" is very interesting and may well be true. That is not the term used by Straub in the interview. He spoke of "naturalism." Arch may find the aims of German directors (especially of that vintage) to be clear. I never claimed to be bright but it struck me that most German films in the era of Fassbinder and Herzog had pretty much the same theme - life is rotten and then you die. (Capitalism is rotten too.) Anna Magdalena is positively cheerful when stacked up against that bunch. I've never figured out why the Italians have churned out so many splendid films since the war while Germans .... haven't. The heavy hand of politics I suppose. When the interviewer asked Leonhardt about his role, Leonhardt said he was cast because he knew something about period performances, could play keyboard instruments and conduct. When Straub was asked the same question he said Leonhardt got the role because he wasn't German: a German playing Bach, Straub commented, might be misconstrued as some kind of artistic nationalism. Heaven forbid.

One key, I'm sure, was the budget. The producer claimed that it cost 600,000 DM to make the film - a slim sum even if discounting inflation. That could explain the spartan sets and the almost total lack of any shots off-set. Why Straub decided not to attempt to show Bach or Anna aging I'm not sure. Leonhardt stays tall, thin and 35 throughout the film which ends at Bach's death. Now that is a cheerful notion.

Anyway, it's a very interesting film if not endearing and I'm sure list members would consider the time watching well spent.


Boenhoffer film and Bach's music

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 30, 2006):
Although the website says that PBS broadcast a 1 hour version of this film on Feb. 6, 2006, I saw it on my Philadelphia PBS on April 21, 2006.

What interested me is that, when the film makers wished to depict orally the Organized, Official Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, it was the music of the Matthäus-Passion and even some Bach instrumental music that was playing in the background.

When they wished to depict the Bonhoeffer community and its concepts concerning what was happening and what needed doing, it was Black American Spirituals that they played in the background.

They emphatically stated that not only was the theological systematic belief system expounded by Luther violently Anti-Semitic but that he put these views into effect in his persecutions of the Jews once they refused to succumb to his form of salvation.

The film makers emphasized the the direct connection from Luther to Hitler and The Third Reich.

Obviously this is relevant to Bach and his passion texts. Obviously I do not accuse J.S. Bach as being other than a servant of this systematic theology and Judenhass and having no choice but to use his genius in service of a theological system that was rotten from the core.

This is all very sorry but not avoidable.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 30, 2006):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I also saw the Bonhoeffer film which is a rerun of several years past. You are very correct. Martin Luther was vehemently Anti-Semitic and this is not just some hearsay theory or hypothesis as we have documentation of this in the writings of Luther himself who called Jews "Christ killers" and also held the stereotype that Jews stole and got their wealth from the poor et al. which Hitler and Goring propounded in Nazi propaganda films against those of us who are Jewish or of Jewish heritage(i.e. non-practicing or half christian or Jewish and did not know it et al). However, we can not blame the Holocaust fully on Luther although some of his teachings fully had an impact on it. Luther was brought up in an age that believed that Jews were Christ Killers which he probably heard from his parents and from their parents and further on back past Columbus. People back then were not as literate as they are today and believed what others told them even though in many cases it was not true. When people like Queen Isabella and other European monarchs forced the Jewish people into ghettos and limited the ways that we could earn a living ----they (the bigots) were in their own ways self-fulling their own prejudices and bigoted views and in doing so created a double jeopardy situation for those who were forced into the situation. Yes many of us became wealthy but most of us were rather poor. Just because one Jew is wealthy does not mean that all of us are but they did not see it that way. These bigots forced us into Finance and banking which we did very well thank you--but that did not mean we wanted to rule the world as one propaganda piece of the 1900s went. When you combine the anti-Semitic attitudes with the sickness of Hitler and his thugs---the Holocaust was only avoidable had Bonhoeffer and his group taken action to prevent the Nazi's from taking power. If you study the history rise of the Nazi party in Germany---it becomes very clear that from the very beginning the party had a final solution on it's agenda from the time that they were meeting in the Beer Halls of Munich. Perhaps the thing that made their rise so easy was the economic times of the time--the Crash of 1929 affected not just Americans but Europeans also. People in Germany in trying to buy a loaf of bread had to bring in a wheel barrel of cash as the German Mark was almost worthless.

Herein lies a lesson for us today as we see Bush II grabbing power. We are now watched like Stalin and Hitler did their people. We have lost many of the freedoms we have come to expect and guaranteed under the American Constitution. The holocaust today is not with the Jews but with American Gay people and Gay people in the Caribbean and in Africa lead by Peter Akinola. Bush II wants to take away all their rights and in Jamaica everyday at least 15 people are murdered because either they admit to being gay or someone thinks that they are without proof of any kind. Bush II is endangering the world with the possibility of a Nuclear Holocaust as well as an environmental one from Global warming.

PBS did another film on Luther which should have been shown at the same time. This film clearly brings out the anti-Anti-semiticism of Luther. My Lutheran friends and Pastors find this part of their religion as an unacceptable ignorant bias and have rejected this ideology in their Lutheranism.


Bach in Film

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 4, 2006):
Just turned on the late movie which was Robert De Niro's "Casino". The opening credits played over footage of a gangland bombing and the closing chorus of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

I wondered if anyone had compiled a list of films using the music of J.S. Ba. A little Googling produced the following site which names 412 films which use Bach:


New Bach Film

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 15, 2007):
I received the message below from Michael Lawrence about a new Bach film.
I thought you might find it interesting.

Here is the latest on the Bach project.

João Carlos Martins called and we have selected some 1994 footage of him performing the Prelude #5 from Book 1 of the WTC for the film. I will film an interview with João Carlos in New York in September. Also, I was contacted by the Washington Bach Consort and they have offered to allow filming of their upcoming performances for the production.

Last week I got a call from Leon Fleisher and we had a very pleasant and detailed talk about the film. Leon liked the personal nature of the film's structure and said the premise was an attractive one for him. He wanted to know who would be in the documentary and was curious to know what piece Charles Rosen would be playing for the film - which is the six-part ricercare from A Musical Offering (BWV 1079).

Leon suggested that he might be interested in playing the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) or my favourite, the Capriccio in Bb for the production. He did not think one of the transcriptions that he performs would be appropriate. Leon also mentioned that filming in his home studio with his 9 foot concert grand might be best. Leon said that he would get back to me when he returns to Baltimore at the end of July.

July 5, 2007 Press Release

Michael Lawrence Films has begun production on a new film on Johann Sebastian Bach.

Hilary Hahn, Edgar Meyer, Béla Fleck, João Carlos Martins, and Matt Haimovitz have all agreed to be in Michael Lawrence's new film on J.S. Bach. In addition, Bobby McFerrin has expressed an interested in doing a duet with Béla Fleck for the documentary. Yo-Yo Ma, Dave Brubeck and Leon Fleisher have also expressed an interest in appearing in the production. What started as a small personal and local film for Mr. Lawrence has blossomed into a major national and international production.

An Emmy nominated filmmaker, Michael Lawrence has written, produced, and directed over twenty documentaries, including productions for PBS, CNN and HBO. His films have been honoured by awards from major film festivals around the world.

Johann Sebastian Bach's music has always been a very personal experience for Michael Lawrence who is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He decided to approach this film in the same way with the primary focus on world-class Bach players performing one favourite Bach piece - not so much as a performance but rather allowing the audience to share in the performer's experience with the music. Each performer will also film an intimate interview that will explore the player's personal feelings about the piece, reflections on Bach as well as comments and stories concerning Bach - the man, his music and his influence.

As the project grew and developed, Mr. Lawrence decided to expand the perspective of the documentary. Bach scholar Christoph Wolff will do an interview for the film as will Sid Meyer who wrote the computer program CPU Bach. Joshua Rifkin is also considering granting an interview for the production.

Due to the support of Tim Page the Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-Winning music critic, David Posen, attorney for the Glenn Gould estate has opened up the entire Gould archive for use in the film. Also materials from the Rosalyn Tureck archive are also available due to the help of Teri Noel Towe and Michael Charry.

Production will begin in August with Felix Hell, the acclaimed young German Bach player performing on the Holtkamp organ at Peabody. Charles Rosen is enthusiastic about appearing in the film and will perform the six-part fugue or ricercare from A Musical Offering. Manuel Barrueco will play and comment on the G minor fugue from the first sonata for unaccompanied violin.

Michael Lawrence especially wants this film to reach out to young people who have almost completely disassociated themselves from classical music. By including Felix Hell (20 years old), Hilary Hahn (27 years old) and Matt Haimovitz, who often plays in rock clubs, Mr. Lawrence hopes to rekindle the love of Bach in young music lovers. Peter Schickele of PDQ Bach, who will also appear in the film, said, "it is about time someone did an out-of-the-box film on Bach."

"I have looked at dozens of films on Bach and not even one is truly engaging or worthy of the master," said Mr. Lawrence. With a little luck, he hopes this production will fill that void. Mr. Lawrence is currently seeking the additional funding needed for the expanded production.

More information on Michael Lawrence Films can be found at:
YouTube Clips of Michael Lawrence Films productions can be found at: YouTube
ICOM Magazine Announcement of Bach Film.

Santu de Silva wrote (July 16, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] I'm only too delighted to hear about this project!

As to whether there are Bach films worthy of the master, it is traditional to be critical of one's competition before the project gets underway, but Swinging Bach, the Bobby McFerrin entry is not bad at all, neither are any of the Bach DVDs. Only the Bobby McFerrin DVD even tries to touch on a large variety of Bach opuses (opera?) we must grant, except for The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach.

Unfortunately, artists who are left out of the project will probably be thoroughly disappointed!

I think it's a wonderful idea. I thoroughly endorse Bela Fleck's participation; I just had to have his CD when I heard it. I wish they would also consider Brian Slawson, one of many percussionists who adore doing Bach. (Gosh, I just would not have the nerve to start a project like this; I would be too anxious about leaving too many people out! For instance, though Yo-yo Ma's Simply Baroque was just wonderful, I don't know really what he could add to a project like this. On the other hand, Lukas Foss's Art of Fuguing has some fabulous movements, which might be hard to incorporate into a visual medium, such as a film.)

As far as appealing to younger listeners, I wonder how much can really be done. How much, for example, did Amadeus (the movie) do for Mozart? Is the word definitively in on that? Perhaps what is needed now is a combination of the sorts of Bach music that would catch the imagination of younger folks, together with a movie with more personal interest, e.g. something on the lines of the A-M Bach movie, but less apologetic. Youthful imaginations are fired by personalities rather than abstractions, imo.

Michael Lawrence wrote (July 28, 2007):
Here is the latest on production for the Bach Film.

We begin filming with Felix Hell at Peabody on August 19th. Teri Towe went to Felix's NTC Trinity Church concert yesterday and said it was a big success. He opened the program with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in D Major. The fugue is the piece Felix will play for the film. Here is a link to the video:

Also, I will shoot HilarHahn sometime in August.

João Carlos Martins is flying specifically to Baltimore for his filming which we will do either September 8 or 9. Matt Haimovitz is set for October 11th in Arlington at the Iota Club.

I just today realized I could sign up for you email mailing lists which I did. I guess I missed you posting an announcement for the film on your lists. Please send me a copy when you get a chance. Teri Towe said he would also post to his list.

Baltimore Sun Bach Article
ICOM Bach Film Announcement
MLF Movie Trailers are up!
You Tube Clips

Michael Lawrence wrote (September 3, 2007):
The Bach project is off and running.

Here is the link to an initial cut of the first day's filming with Felix Hell.

João Carlos Martins, who was suggested for the film by Dave Brubeck, will fly into Baltimore at his own expense to do an interview next Sunday at the Peabody Conservatory. He is also providing archival footage of his performance of the D Major Prelude and Fugue from Book one of the Well Tempered Clavichord. We will also film João Carlos giving a lesson to a student that Leon Fleisher has recommended.

Other filming dates are falling into place. On October 11th, we film Matt Haimovitz at the Iota Club in Arlington Virginia. Then we film Manuel Barrueco in his home performing the G minor fugue from the first violin sonata on October 29th.

6708 Danville Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21222
(410) 633-0558
(410) 633-5868 Fax

Baltimore Sun Bach Article
ICOM Bach Film Announcement
MLF Movie Trailers are up!
You Tube Clips

Michael Lawrence wrote (September 17, 2007):
I put up an initial cut of the João Carlos footage and the links are below.

If your computer has difficulty playing Quick Time files, the clips are also up on You Tube with the links below.

Bach Film - Joåo Carlos Martins Cut
Joåo Carlos Martins Cut on You Tube
Bach Film - Felix Hell Initial Cut
Felix Hell Cut on You Tube
Baltimore Sun Bach Article
ICOM Bach Film Announcement
MLF Movie Trailers
MLF You Tube Clips


Bach Movie: "Silence Before Bach"

William Hoffman wrote (April 10, 2009):
I just found out that, "Back by Unrelenting Demand" at the College of Santa Fe (NM) is "The Silence Before Bach" (Die Stiile vor Bach), 2007, 110 minutes. The Official Site is

Two years ago CSF did "Bach at Leipzig," a play by Itmar Moses. Every few years we get the SMP or the MBM OVPP in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, directed by Kenneth Slowick(sp.), (Smithsonian) with the Santa Fe Pro Musica and singers from the Santa Fe Opera. No staged Passions yet but we're working on it.


Bach Movies: Bach's Life & Documentaries: Index by Title | Index by Year
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