Reviews and Comments on BACH & friends
If you didn’t already believe that Johann Sebastian Bach is the greatest composer who ever wrote on planet Earth, you probably will after viewing this loving, informative, and insightful documentary.
Director Michael Lawrence (he also edited and produced) conducted in-depth and surprisingly intimate interviews with an impressive array of Bach interpreters. The conversations appear in accessible bite-size pieces, artfully interspersed with intense excerpts of excellent sound quality from the speakers’ performances. The editing has a natural, lively rhythm — wisely Lawrence doesn’t use a narrator — that avoids platitudes and poetically illustrates the musicians’ ideas.
Harlow Robinson, The Boston Globe | January 22, 2012
Lindsay Koob, CharlestonToday.Net
I spent two wonder-struck hours viewing perhaps the most deeply revealing, wide-ranging, and beguiling portrait of the old master and his music I’ve encountered in any form of media…
Like Bach’s music itself, this is a relentlessly delicious and copious feast for the ears, intellect, heart, and soul—not to mention eyes. Don’t miss it!
Lindsay Koob, CharlestonToday.Net | March 19, 2011
The uke is just one of the surprising instruments you’ll hear in Bach & Friends, Michael Lawrence’s glorious celebration of the great master’s work in which musicians of all kinds not only play but talk about why Bach inspires them. This elegantly executed documentary makes you want to hear more of each musician’s work. I found this video both inspiring and enriching.
Leonard Maltin | September 21, 2010
Nancy Malitz, ARTicles, the National Arts Journalism Program
The DVD project was a labor of love for film-maker Michael Lawrence, a classical guitarist and composer by training, with a healthy quotient of bluegrass and jazz in his mix. Mr. Lawrence rightly determining that most Bach documentaries are dreadful, he decided to have a go at a Bach film himself.
Those who love Bach are always looking to win him new followers. Glenn Gould's "Goldberg Variations" has been my gift of choice when people ask. I now pair it with a recent DVD film by Michael Lawrence called "Bach & Friends," which captures the insights of a novel cross-section of Bach interpreters. Lawrence deserves enormous credit for capturing such an intimate tone in the film. He took two cameras and a minuscule crew into the favored practice areas, sound studios, living rooms, backyards and kitchens of his subjects. He got as close as he could to each musician. Visually cohesive, carefully edited and wonderful sounding. You can't beat this DVD set if you're seeking a way into Bach's music.
Nancy Malitz, ARTicles, the National Arts Journalism Program | March 30, 2011
AMMAN - Beauty is everywhere in Bach and Friends, the new musical documentary by American director and producer Michael Lawrence. The two-hour long film is as entertaining and gorgeous to watch as it is informative. It immerses you from the beginning in a world where the beauty of the music is on a par with that of the image and the sound. The essential element, however, is the thoughts of the many musicians who have participated in the movie and the elegant way they have expressed these enlightening thoughts.
Jean-Claude Elias, The Jordan Times | November 7, 2010
This is an exceptional production in every way and is essential viewing for anyone who enjoys, studies or plays Bach. One of our personal ìtestsî of a good movie comes afterwards, how often we remember different scenes, how long it lingers with pleasure in the memory. ìBach & Friendsî promises to linger for some very considerable time.
Michael Meacock, Editor of BaroqueMusic.org | January 18, 2011
This is not a documentary about Bach, but about how Bach is perceived and exists today through the eyes of musicians (and others) who have a special connection to the composer.
Running through all of this, behind the words, are some impressive Bach performances by the project's participants, including Bell's only recorded performance of the Chaconne. As a fine perk, these performances are also offered on their own, without commentary, on a second DVD in the two-disk package.
In short, this is a love letter, given an additional glow by loving camerawork and equally loving visual editing. And it does have plenty to offer: some fine performances; some interesting information; and what amounts to a cross-section of today's classical music world, in many of its current manifestations, from highbrow to crossover.
Anne Midgette, The Washington Post | February 11, 2010
Read the entire Review
A Documentary About Bach Gives Food for Thought.
One of the most fascinating documentaries I've seen recently is Mike Lawrence's Bach and Friends. It's a two-hour compilation of some extraordinary performances coupled with information about the composer's life and times and personal reflections of musicians. The result is truly uplifting.
Alan Elsner, Huffington Post | March 1, 2010
Bach's Brilliant Friends
Bach on the organ? Of course. On the piano? Certainly. On the cello? Naturally. On the violin? Sure. But Bach on the banjo? The ukelele? The mandolin? How about the glass harp? Or the clarinet, the guitar, and the double bass? And let's not forget a cappella. You hear them all -- brilliantly filmed and recorded -- courtesy of BACH & friends, a gorgeous two-hour documentary by Michael R. Lawrence
Jan Herman, Straight Up | March 1, 2010
Simply put, Lawrence hits the documentary out of the park. Accessible to both Bach-lovers and classical-music newbies alike, fabulous direction, innovative performances, and sincere interviews make this film an absolute must-see.
Nick Fitzgerald, Bach & Tonic | July 12, 2010
"I'm in heaven," says Baltimore filmmaker Michael Lawrence, whose documentary "Bach & Friends" will receive its local debut Sunday. The film features more than two dozen musicians, including composer Philip Glass, violinist Joshua Bell, bassist Edgar Meyer and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, discussing their passion for Bach. Remarkable performances are threaded throughout the film. People who already have a devotion to Bach — playing his music is "as close to religion as I get," says pianist Simone Dinnerstein in the documentary — should find Lawrence's work reaffirming and entertaining. Others may well be inspired by the enthusiasm on screen to seek out more experiences with the composer who laid much of the framework of Western music.
Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | September 30, 2010
Lovers of music rejoice. BACH & FRIENDS, which will be shown tonight at the Fredonia Opera House to celebrate the annual ‘Bach & Beyond’ festival, is a remarkable piece of documentary filmmaking by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michael Lawrence. The film is beautifully photographed, and it has outstanding sound quality. In very well organized fashion, during its two-hour run time, the film introduces basic and well-documented information about such varied topics as how Bach composed his music, the connection between music and mathematics, a scientific study of how the human brain is influenced by music, the effects on the music produced by changing the instrument on which it is performed and much more.
Robert W. Plyler , The Post-Journal | June 4, 2011
Earl Arthur Love, ConcertoNet.com
Bach & Friends is a marvel. In just under two hours, over 30 individual musicians, as well as the Emerson String Quartet, paint a loving and in-depth tableau of the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is a contemporary love letter to Bach. No one should doubt, after watching this film, that J.S. Bach was the greatest composer who ever lived.
Earl Arthur Love, ConcertoNet.com | March 31, 2011
Producer and director Michael Lawrence’s Bach & Friends is a fresh and engaging look at the life of Johann Sebastian Bach and the legacy of his music. The composer’s friends consist of today’s great concert and recording artists including violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Zuill Bailey, singer and conductor Bobby McFerrin, violinist Hilary Hahn, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, and many more. Beautiful cinematography by Richard Chisolm (The Response; Hopkins, 7 episodes; Waiting For Hockney). Together with director Lawrence, the viewer becomes engaged in an intense and personal intimacy with the composer through interwoven commentary and performance. Each of the musicians is presented in a particular and complimentary setting where brains and passion bring Bach and his music to vibrant life.
Seán Martinfield, Sentinel Editor and Publisher | July 12, 2010
Filmmaker Michael Lawrence has assembled a documentary that, like Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, is moving and masterful and should hold universal appeal. Visually, it’s beautifully composed and fluid in style. And, oh, what delights for the ear! The film makes clear how Bach’s music transcends not only time and cultures, but genres, as well.
Pop Culture Classics, Paul Freeman | May 11, 2010
It may be suicidal to say this, but if you want to learn about composers, ask a musician, not a music critic. Often people who make music can talk about it in ways that non-musicians can understand without resorting to jargon.
That's what makes "Bach and Friends," a two-hour documentary by Michael Lawrence, so enjoyable. The film explores the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach not through the eyes of historians and academics, but from the perspective of musicians who play his works. Through the nearly two hours of interviews and performances Lawrence hammers home a consistent theme: Bach is important because his music is fun.
Adam Richter, Classical Vinylist | September 28, 2010
Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
What do Hilary Hahn, Philip Glass, Bela Fleck and Dr. Charles J. Limb have in common? They are all lovers of Bach and appear in Michael Lawrence's wonderful new film of conversations and music, "Bach & Friends."
My best guess is that you recognize the first three of those I listed. Dr. Limb, probably not. He's an Otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins and double-duties on the faculty of Peabody where he studies the effects of music on the brain.
Dr. Limb -- plus writers, biographers, a mathematician, and a game designer -- and some of the finest Bach interpreters today -- converge in a set of illuminating reflections that explore the performing of Bach, his effect on our lives, minds and hearts and why he continues to have power over us nearly three centuries later.
In one scene there's a close-up of just hands - Simone Dinnerstein's graceful fingers - crossing over one another and seemingly dancing on keys. We get inside a tracker organ's guts while Felix Hell busily negotiates a fugue - its seemingly impossible fleet-foot work and all. We are then near enough to hear the rush of air as Richard Stolzman renders a transcription of a Bach fantasy for keyboard.
And all in a series of gorgeous, intimate, breathe-taking shots that balance the sense of wonder in Bach -- "Bach is as close to religion as I get" (Dinnerstein) with the purely visceral "Bach slams you in the gut." (Chris Thile)
Some exquisite moments include Zuill Bailey playing one of Bach's suites - sensing the vibration of the strings and the sizzle of the bow. When he describes the humanity of Bach -- "joy, laughter, sorrow and loss, music that reaches to the heart of human nature" we find ourselves nodding our heads in agreement.
Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio | March 30, 2010
BACH & friends was released in May 2010 to great critical acclaim. Lawrence pulled together an all-star group of Bach interpreters to perform and discuss Bach's music. It's easy to see why both critics and audiences have loved BACH & friends. The movie invites us to look at the music in a new way, to understand Bach as a human being with an extraordinary gift, who created work that is still alive and vibrant three centuries later. Lawrence has created a beautiful tribute for Bach's 325th anniversary year.
Kris Faatz, Peabody Magazine | September 29, 2010
Bach & Friends is a terrific testimonial to the greatness of Bach’s music. Lawrence, who has written, produced, and directed over twenty documentaries, brings you really close to the performers when they talk and perform, which gives this film a personal flair. The earnest and genuine quality what the performers say and how they perform make this film a must see.
James Bash, Oregon Music News | March 5, 2010
Best Documentary - Michael Lawrence’s Bach & Friends is no Bach bio. Rather, it’s an extended meditation on the composer’s ongoing relevance and widespread influence. Lawrence, a local filmmaker whose credits include a documentary on guitarist Manual Barrueco, filmed a "who’s who" of contemporary musicians—including Philip Glass, Simone Dinnerstein, Joshua Bell, Bobby McFerrin, Béla Fleck, Hilary Hahn, and Barrueco—riffing about Bach’s significance and backing up their statements with jaw-dropping performances. A few talking heads add some critical perspective, but Lawrence pretty much lets the music do the talking. The DVD includes a bonus disc of unedited performances, and they help reinforce Lawrence’s premise that Bach rocks.
Baltimore Magazine, John Lewis | July 201
American pianist Simone Dinnerstein is the 21st-century poster child for the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach, the music that made the reputation of Toronto's Glenn Gould. She calls the German master's music “the closest thing that I have to religion.”
It's an emotion echoed by the two dozen artists working in all genres of music — from Bobby McFerrin to Bela Fleck to Joshua Bell and Philip Glass — in this new documentary by Michael Lawrence.
There couldn't be a more fitting birthday tribute than this two-hour celebration of what makes Bach's work so special, and what has helped it to survive the last three centuries.
John Terauds, Toronto Star | March 29, 2010
There have been other filmed documentaries on Bach, but this is the best I’ve ever seen.
John Sunier, Audiophile Audition | February 13, 2010
Steven Mark, Star-Advertiser
I love Bach, and I know I’m not alone. A two-disc DVD documentary I recently discovered, “Bach & Friends,” reveals the reverence great musicians of all styles have for Bach’s music and its impeccable combination of sound, science, wit, elegance and emotional depth.
Steven Mark, Star-Advertiser | April 27, 2012
Three years after he started on the project, Baltimore filmmaker Mike Lawrence has released his latest documentary, "Bach & Friends," the kind of work that has "labor of love" all over it.
Lawrence's passion for Bach's music led him to ask a cross section of artists to discuss the composer's place in their creative lives. The result is an entertaining mix of ideas and emotions, along with music-making of a high caliber.
No one could miss the genuine enthusiasm and just plain reverence that the film's participants express. When pianist Simone Dinnerstein says that playing Bach is "as close to religion as I get," she's speaking for many musicians (even those who also have more traditional religious leanings).
Lawrence has achieved so much in his film. By vibrantly exploring and celebrating Bach's hold on today's musicians, "Bach & Friends" makes it clear why the composer will continue to exert just as strong a hold for generations to come.
Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | February 28, 2010
David Mishur, OneOnlineCommunity.com
Mr. Lawrence has produced a wonderful tribute to perhaps the greatest composer ever known. It has been widely hailed as a masterpiece by many professional music critics. In this documentary he shows not only that Bach has a great many friends of all ages, but is also making it easy for many more people to become a friend of Bach and enjoy his music.
By producing Bach and Friends and making it available to the public, Mr. Lawrence has not only given a great present to the Master on his 325th birthday, but has also proven that he is perhaps Bach's best friend of all.
David Mishur, OneOnlineCommunity.com | May 25, 2010
Robert Silverstein, MWE.com
So fascinating you’ll be riveted from start to finish.
Robert Siverstein, MWE3.com | April 21, 2010
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote hundreds of works of music in every idiom, for just about all the instruments of his day, and in fact he could—and did, perform on all of them. His first job was as a violinist. These are factoids revealed in an appealing documentary on the life of Bach that explores the meaning of his music in today’s world from a musical and scientific perspective. Using star musicians and academicians, the DVD, “Bach and Friends”, is a quick-paced enjoyable trip that finally allows a chance to hear the musicians individually perform.
This DVD is an absolute must-have for classroom use in any Musical Appreciation course. Others who want to know about music, the workings of composition, the math/music connection, the artist’s approach to performing great works, and science’s musing about how the brain perceives music, should also grab a copy. The material is well-organized and each presenter is brief and to the point.
Bill Peters, Peters' Music News | June 5, 2010
I viewed the movie night before last and LOVED it. It's such an elegant interweaving of brilliant musical performances and passionate people.
Teller | April 8, 2010
An all-star lineup of musicians reflects on the genius and power of Bach, and performs some of his greatest works in this outstanding new documentary by Michael Lawrence.
Mary Ann Stewart, Music In Motion | May 8, 2010
It’s amazing to see musicians from all backgrounds—professional and emerging talent, pianists, violinists, clarinetists, singers, vocal groups, jazz musicians—perform and discuss their craft in an easy-going collegial setting. For this reason alone, Michael Lawrence’s documentary ‘BACH & Friends,’ is deserving of the highest acclaim.
Rich Godwin, Digital Times | September 21, 2011
BACH & Friends arrived just in time for Bach’s 325th birthday celebration in our household, and what a celebration it has been!
Your film is a treasure! Every human being should see it. You found a way to capture, for the common person, the depth and breadth of that music. It gives us a glimpse into our potential. In Bach’s music I hear all the things we are striving for as human beings. By collecting the thoughts of all those composers and performers into one place—your two-hour documentary—a composite message begins to emerge (at least for me), and that message is that there are forces at work in this music that go beyond the material plane of our existence. This music acts as a bridge to something beyond our understanding and comprehension. There are things about it that defy explanation. Many of the ‘friends’ on your film allude to this, marveling at the mystery of it. A heartfelt thank you!
Janika Vandervelde | March 21, 2010 - Bach’s 325th Birthday
What better way to celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday this week than to order a copy of an extraordinary DVD devoted to some of the greatest interpreters of his music reflecting on his genius? The DVD, titled Bach & Friends, comes from filmmaker Michael Lawrence and is available online now.
How often do we come across a documentary film about something so universal and human as the music of Bach? But let’s not call this a documentary. Let’s call it a ticket to an incredibly entertaining journey… as much about the musicians that convey their innermost thoughts on Johann Sebastian Bach as it is about Bach’s music itself. These musicians are the “friends” in the title, and they deserve such high billing.
Greg Victor | March 20, 2010
Your film is as beautiful as it is smart. I was glued to the screen and could have easily watched another two hours of it. (I have yet to watch the performance disc - so I do have something to look forward to). You combined great talkers with top players and managed to connect the clips in a highly engaging and erudite narrative chain. From Glass to PDQ to the Swingles it was a thrill all the way through. Stunning shots of fingers on instruments. And the balance of words versus music was right on; you let the tunes roll long enough to appreciate the music while keeping the storytelling ball rolling.
Felicitations! I hope you get all the success this deserves.
Looking forward to Volume 2.
Eric Siblin, author of The Cello Suites | February 18, 2010
The performances in the film are absolutely stellar ones from stellar performers.
Classical Journal, Alan Sherrod | May 3, 2010
Baltimore filmmaker Michael Lawrence offers his outlook on Johann Sebastian Bach through the words and performances of those deeply involved in his music.
A Bach composition is worth a thousand words. But the thoughts are all intriguing, particularly composer Philip Glass' theories on the Bach creative process. The spoken thoughts also include a few moments with Peter Schickele discussing his creation, P.D.Q. Bach.
In a similar fashion, Disc Two has 19 performances that show off the individual skills of these performers, such as the jazz-oriented singing of McFerrin, the beautiful violins of Hahn and Bell, the clarinet of Richard Stoltzman and the timeless vocalese of the Swingle Singers.
Bob Karlovits, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW | April 11, 2010
In Michael Lawrence’s captivating film, the director records numerous musicians at their homes, in the studio, or on stage, speaking about the music of Bach, his influence on their own work, and a performance, or two, from each musician. Lawrence selects from a wide variety of musicians, from various backgrounds, and musical interests, and that is where the film really takes off, and carries its unique power.
Michael Lawrence, with his team of talented musicians on camera, offers an excellent and passionate portrait of the master’s work.
Randy Ray, jambands.com | April 7, 2010
Bach & Friends is a monument to the genius of Bach. The film is a labour of love by filmmaker Michael Lawrence who started the project in 2007. He has interviewed a wide range of world class composers and musicians representing a broad spectrum of today's musical world. These interviews and a host of integral musical examples have been assembled into a unique film which explores the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach. Through these personal reflections, the film profoundly illustrates why this uniquely influential composer is relevant and meaningful today, 260 years after his death.
"Bach and Friends" paints a picture of a composer who is long gone, but whose creations thrive among today's musicians. That legacy is unsurpassed, and I have no doubt that this film will inspire yet more musicians.
Jim Paterson, mfiles.co.uk | March 25, 2010
Baltimore filmmaker Michael Lawrence gets a bunch of very fine musicians to talk about what Bach means to them, both as musicians and in their "civilian" lives. Don't expect startling revelations, but you will get a very strong sense of exactly how big a deal Bach's music has become for some of the best performers of our time – a star-studded cast, in fact. I have no idea how he persuaded so many from the current A-list to appear.
Furthermore, many of them perform complete pieces on the bonus disc. Joshua Bell plays the Chaconne. Hilary Hahn, unfortunately, plays only a snippet from one of the solo violin movements. Richard Stoltzman does an extraordinary job with just his clarinet on the Chromatic Fantasy for keyboard. When asked what he thought he could bring to the piece to make up for the necessary loss of parts, he replied, "I can give it breath." He does just that.
Other musical highlights include a terrific young organist, Felix Hell and the Swingle Singers (led by their founder, Ward Swingle) in an a cappella "Badinerie" from the second orchestral suite. Jake Shimabukuro plays the 2-Part Invention #4 on the ukulele, and the spectacular bluegrass mandolinist Chris Thile goes to town on the Prelude from the Violin Partita #3 (a lively, danceable account – I wish violinists would play it that way). Finally, guitarist Manuel Barrueco delivers an astonishing fugue from the Violin Sonata #1 as if it posed no fingerboard problems whatsoever. You quickly stop waiting for him to stumble or hesitate and give yourself to the music.
Steve Schwartz, Classical Net | March 12, 2010
John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine
Local filmmaker Michael Lawrence has put together this fascinating DVD about the music of Bach and it's influence on contemporary culture. More than simply a Bach tribute, it takes a multi-faceted look at the composer's work through a prism of interviews with musicians, writers and scientists.
John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine | March, 2010
Dear Mike, Thank you for your spendid DVD's
Many of the performers brought tears to my eyes... Felix and Mike's Organ Fugues and many others -- in large part because of the artistry of your recording and and lighting and operating and editing. Bach & Friends and the performances were both superb, and every artist shined the brighter because of your taste and skill and love of Bach's music.
A transformative experience...
very warm regards, Garrett Brown
For Love of Bach
There is surely no composer whose work transcends cultural, geographical and temporal boundaries as does Johann Sebastian Bach’s. Just in time for the 325th anniversary of his birth on March 21, comes a terrific new 2-DVD set celebrating many facets of his work.
The brainchild of Michael Lawrence, a conservatory-trained guitar and banjo player turned award-winning documentary filmmaker, “BACH & friends” features performances and interviews with leading musicians including Bobby McFerrin, Simone Dinnerstein, Edgar Meyer, Philip Glass, Peter Schickele, Richard Stolzman, Hillary Hahn, the Swingle Singers, Béla Fleck, Matt Haimovitz and the Emerson Quartet. The first DVD contains the musicians’ commentary interspersed with musical clips, along with keen insights from pianist/scholars like Mike Hawley, who contemplates what the world would be like had Bach not lived, perish the thought.
The high point of the film for me is the stunning final segment in which the Emerson Quartet discusses and plays part of Bach’s last, unfinished work, “Art of the Fugue.” Here the sounds are coupled with computer-generated fractals that evoke the distant reaches of space, to which Bach’s music has been sent on the Voyager I spacecraft.
Donald Sosin, The Music Scene | March 4, 2010
I viewed the documentary this evening. I was overcome with emotion and am still somewhat in a daze and speechless. You did the impossible!
The ending described his 'Being' so perfectly! Dr. Schweitzer would absolutely agree with every aspect of your creation.
Wonderful, just wonderful... BRAVO! I will show it to my family tomorrow and will invite friends over to watch it with them as well, again and again... because you created a masterpiece. What an inspiration for us all on this planet!
For me he is one of the immortals, as alive today as ever.
Thank you from my heart,
Renate zum Tobel
Highly Recommended. Filmed in people’s homes, a night club, a nursing home, a hospital, music studios, several churches, and even a couple of concert halls, this two-hour exploration of what some of the music of J. S. Bach means to today’s musicians and audiences covers a lot of territory.
Bonnie Jo Dopp, Educational Media Reviews Online | March 29, 2010
A new film about JS Bach is always going to be keenly anticipated by lovers of music around the world. This has certainly been true of ‘Bach and Friends’, a thoughtfully and affectionately produced two-DVD set by Michael Laurence. It is neither a documentary nor an educational treatise; it is a celebration and one that is, in my experience, quite unique. It records the reactions of a large and particularly diverse range of musicians to Bach’s music and through that, it honours it and rejoices at its legacy.
JULIAN MINCHAM, Posted on Bach Recordings group | March 2, 2010
Thanks to Michael Lawrence for another landmark documentary, and I'm delighted to learn there will be a second Bach installment. I highly recommend BACH & friends, no matter your taste in music or art - there is something here for everyone to learn from and aspire to.
Nicholas Simmons | November 28, 2010
I want to congratulate you again on your great
movie. I think it's an amazing achievement and a testament to your
dedication, talent, and hard work. I think Bach would be proud.
Dr. Andrew Talle
Mike Hawley, Director of EG, pianist
Just was able to give it a careful watch.
There are so many beautiful things --- the imagery and wonderfully varied intimate visuals, the thoughtful remarks, the beautiful playing. And the connections that emerge. It's so much fun to watch the Swingle Singers put together the Badinerie layer by layer while Ward lays his thoughts on top; or meet John Bayless, and then later watch him slide into the MRI. How cool that Richard Stoltzman loves the marvelous chromatic fantasy --- which I used to play all the time...
I found myself thinking about the transitions between things. I like the flow in general --- the way you have Phil Glass, with Simone playing Goldberg underneath, and Uri Cane, all interspersed.
ps, thanks for making me look so good!
Posted on Bach Cantatas and Bach Recordings groups
Michael Lawrence's "Bach Project" DVD just arrived. I watched it, absolutely
spellbound for its entire two hours. The exceptionally intelligent and
sophisticated commentary by lots (and lots) of instrumental players (no vocal,
choral, or orchestral content, unfortunately--maybe on "Bach Project II," hint,
hint?) was insightful and riveting. A recurring theme involves JSB's
improvisational skills and what that means for modern composers and artists (and
brain research!). The performances are first-rate, too. While Bach "neophytes"
can certainly enjoy and benefit from watching this (it would be a good "pump
primer" for them), I suspect those who are already in awe of JSB will get the
most from, and be most moved, by it. This is a GREAT DVD. Bravo!
WOW, what a fantastic film!! From the opening titles, through such wonderful parts as Glenn Gould, Sid Meier, Bela Fleck, PDQ Bach, and the beautiful closing Contrapunctus and words from the Harlan Brothers and Josh Bell, it was just such a pleasure to become absorbed in the watching and the listening.
And the performances, too. . . the camerawork and incredible angles were a treat to behold. I think you've created something absolutely essential.
Vanessa Gould, filmmaker, Between The Folds | February 18, 2011
The bonus DVD features very engaging performances as well as exciting visual experiences. The 23 year old Felix Hell performs the youthful, energetic organ fugue in D major BWV 532. The visuals of his brilliant pedal technique are astounding; this is an aspect of the concert organist's craft which an audience rarely gets to see. Simone Donnerstein gives a "heavenly, dreamy" (in the positive sense of the words) expressive performance of variation 13 of the Goldbergs, on a modern grand. Her total immersion in the music is instructive; it's as if time and space have ceased to exist for the performer.
This total absorption of the performer by the music is evident in all the serious contributions; Hilary Hahn is another that comes to mind. The Emerson String Quartet demonstrate what an effective medium their ensemble is for the realisation of The Art of Fugue. Their vigorous performance of Contrapunctus 9, with its jazzy brilliance, is visually and aurally stunning.
Violinist Joshua Bell concludes the music with a brilliant performance of the famous Chaconne. Visual highlights here include his vigorous "pumping" of the bow, as if forcing the relentless flow of 1/32 notes from the instrument in a most technically challenging variation. The image of a humming bird's rapidly fluttering wings comes to mind.
Neil Halliday | February 18, 2010
Celebrate Bach's 325th birthday with fitting DVD set
It is the two-hour documentary, “Bach & Friends,” produced, edited and directed by Michael R. Lawrence, and available on DVD. Lawrence is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, a graduate of Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and a musician himself. His own appreciation of Bach’s music led him to undertake this project, which has been three years in the making.
The music weaves in and out of the interviews effortlessly, and the camera gives fascinating close-ups of some very personal music making. The musicians were filmed in their homes, offices, studios, or on stage, but not in public performances. A second disc in the set contains 90 minutes of uninterrupted performances by these same musicians.
JUDITH WHITE, The Saratogian | March 14, 2010
This is not a documentary about Bach's life but rather a documentary about Bach's music and as such it provides an appreciable sampling of the music that is the foundation on which most of what we call music today is based.
It is in the solo works: the organ works, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Goldberg Variations, the violin sonatas and partitas, and the cello suites that we meet Bach intimately and personally. Here we have one musician and one instrument communicating, first of all, with each other and then conveying meaning and aspiration to others who may be in the same space.
The most jaw-dropping for me was organist Felix Hell's performance of the Fugue in D, S.532. You can hardly watch this guy's pedal work without falling out of your chair. Simone Dinnerstein's performance of the opening theme of the Goldberg Variations left me overwhelmed and breathless. The adulation and the performances are great.
The second DVD in the set is comprised of complete performances of the sample works without commentary or interruption. The sound and picture quality are superb. The editing flows comfortably. There is enough pure joy in this set to make it worth having on your shelf.
Ken Hoover, Classical Voice of North Carolina | February 22, 2010
This is an engaging and rewarding film. My attention never lagged.
Kirk McElhearn, Music Web International | April 8, 2010
It’s a fascinating presentation, especially seeing and hearing the many different reasons that have attracted this diverse group of musicians to Bach. Other contributors include Joshua Bell, Jake Shimabokuro, Bobby McFerrin and Christopher Wolff. Many more video snippets can be viewed on the Michael Lawrence Films web site.
JOHN LAWLESS, Bluegrass Blog | February 3, 2010
Stephen Smoliar, National Examiner
I first became aware of it in San Francisco when it received its West Coast premiere presentation at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in conjunction with a (sold out) fund-raising event for San Francisco Classical Voice. Next month it will be screened as part of the Baroque Music Festival in Fredonia, New York (on June 4) and as part of the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, Oregon (on June 25, as well as July 2 and 3). The film may also be purchased on DVD from a Web page on the Web site for Michael Lawrence Films.
Stephen Smoliar, National Examiner | May 16, 2011
Raymond Erickson, The American Bach Society Newsletter
BACH & friends has its "Baroque moments" of astonishment and delight, and certainly will give great pleasure to many.
Raymond Erickson, The American Bach Society Newsletter | Fall 2010
Do yourself a favor and order a DVD OR, if you are feeling generous, pick up a copy of the DVD for your local library, school, etc. It is a gem.
Matthew Beal | September 21, 2011
Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
This is a very well-produced two-DVD set. It’s full of high definition colour, relatively cogent interviews and 'talking heads'; some scenery - interior and exterior, close-up and panoramic - with lots of excerpts of Bach's best known music.
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Michael Lawrence’s new documentary, Bach and Friends, is a two-hour love letter to the Baroque master. The film’s final sequence is its best, featuring The Art of Fugue. Here Lawrence artfully fuses the life and music of Bach in the performance by the Emerson Quartet.
Elliot Mandel | March 4, 2010
The performances on the film are absolutely stellar ones from stellar performers.
Classical Journal | May 3, 2010
I enjoyed the DVD enormously. I've always had a tremendously intense emotional response to much of the Bach music being performed and have always had difficulty putting it into words. It's therefore reassuring and uplifting to hear such a collection of great musicians who get the same sort of impact and strive to communicate it to the viewer. Lawrence's simple and direct style makes the intensity of the passion felt by these musicians quite tangible, as do many of the clips of them playing. Clearly, the act of playing Bach's music has an effect that one can only describe as mystical. Some of the performances are wonderful: I was particularly taken by mandolin player Chris Thile's rendering of the prelude from the third Violin Partita.
David Karlin, Bachtrack.com | February 26, 2010
Michael Lawrence’s documentary BACH & Friends is deserving of the highest acclaim.
Terence Yung, The Daily Cougar | August 30, 2011
Literally thrilling to watch Bach & Friends on the big screen and with a full house. You already know it's your best production -- best looking/sounding/pacing. Also the variety of the ideas, all the way from Bach's personal story to a good deal of Music Theory. But there's another subject I took away from the screening: it is also about the ambitions/egos and persoal searches of the interviewees. There's a very strong underlying narrative there about each individual's own perspective -- I could feel the audience identifying with them. You will say it's just Bach who brought them all together -- and so he is the real subject after all. But in another way, it fees like Bach is just one more individual thrown into the big fractal with the rest of us -- all in the same fugue. For you to teach us that -- what an accomplishment!
Great to see the whole thing projected! Unbelievable sound quality (the string music, the thundering organ, and Ward Swingle's whisper-voice, all up at the same crisp decibel level) and the fine lighting. In all your interview films, I always love your Sense of Place -- this film especially: not just the clarinet at the far end of the church vault but placing Hilary Hahn against the city window, Bela in his messy rooms and Edgar Meyer with a big tree trunk outside the window that parallels his own standing "woody" bass), and of course the minimalist snow falling outside Phillip Glass' window. Brilliant stuff. And the so-carefully chosen extreme CU's when certain performers (my favorite, Simone) were in the zone.
You even got Bach biography in there. You even got respectful laughs along the way. That Sunday morning crowd was, in some ways, the ideal audience -- but I think students would sit for the two hours also, as so many of your interviewees represent the young generation of classical hopefuls -- Hilary and Joshua and Jake and Chris and on.
But you don't need me to tell you any of this -- you've been teaching the same message in nearly every film: that there is this cosmic reservoir available to all of us -- people like me can only spoon out little samples at a time, while you celebrate the Big Dippers. And yet you make them accessible to us. As I said, what an accomplishment!
Thanks for letting me attend. From a fan in the back row...
John Caps, Cinema Soundtrack | October 5, 2010