Bach: The Fifth Evangelist (Bachfest Leipzig 2013) | DW Documentary

If there is anyone who owes everything to Bach, it is certainly God.”

Emil Cioran

A homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer of the Christian message: the music documentary Vita Christi—Bach, the Fifth Evangelist was produced for the 2013 Bach Festival Leipzig. With the theme, “Vita Christi”, that year’s edition of the festival retold the life of Jesus Christ in oratorios, masses and cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and composers close to him. Peter Schlögl’s music documentary highlights the festival program, shows rehearsals and concert excerpts and hears from musicians and Bach experts.

Years later, the timeless quality of this documentary is still evident. Not only does it provide insight into the authentic places where Johann Sebastian Bach worked, it also convincingly conveys the motives of the important Baroque composer. Bach was a Christian composer, who placed himself and his work entirely at the service of God. His compositions retell the life of Jesus Christ as if they were one of the four Gospels of the New Testament. This is why Bach is referred to as the “Fifth Evangelist.”


At a glance:

  1. Introduction: The legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach
  2. The Bachfest Leipzig 2013 “Vita Christi” retold the life of Jesus Christ in music, in oratorios, masses and cantatas
  3. Music excerpt: J.S. Bach: Chorus “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (from the Cantata “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme”, BWV 140) | St. Thomas Choir & Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, Georg Christoph Biller (conductor)
  4. Statements from festival visitors
  5. Biography: Bach comes to Leipzig
  6. Stefan Altner, Managing Director of the St. Thomas Choir Leipzig: Bach is the origin of most of today’s music
  7. Pianist & composer Ketil Bjørnstad improvises on Bach’s music and reflects on its existential content
  8. Biography: Bach’s work in Leipzig
  9. Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive Leipzig: How Bach directed the St. Thomas Choir
  10. History of the St. Thomas Choir
  11. Georg Christoph Biller, Musical Director of the St. Thomas Choir: It is the St Thomas’s Choir’s responsibility to regularly perform works by Johann Sebastian Bach
  12. Rehearsal: J.S. Bach: “Cum Sancto Spiritu” (from the Mass in B minor, BWV 232) | St. Thomas Choir, Georg Christoph Biller (conductor)
  13. Georg Christoph Biller, Musical Director of the St. Thomas Choir: The Mass in B minor is an expression of Bach’s skill and thinking
  14. Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive Leipzig: The Kyrie and Gloria set an incomparable final accent in the Mass in B minor
  15. Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive Leipzig: The Credo of the Mass in B minor is a short summary of the life of Christ and the story of salvation
  16. The theological significance of Bach and the spirituality of his music
  17. Stefan Altner, Managing Director of the St. Thomas Choir: Bach’s music not only appeals to the intellect but also touches people emotionally
  18. Bach as a Lutheran composer
  19. Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive Leipzig: During Bach’s lifetime, Protestant church music was of immense importance
  20. Bach’s deep religiousness
  21. Helmut Loos, Musicologist: Bach made music at the service of God
  22. Bach’s work at the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig
  23. Rehearsal: J.S. Bach: Sinfonia (from the Cantata “Christ lag in Todesbanden”, BWV 4) | Chamber Choir & Hofkapelle Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius (conductor)
  24. Frieder Bernius, conductor Chamber Choir Stuttgart: Bach’s music convincingly conveys the Christian message
  25. Rehearsal: J. S. Bach: Aria “Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn” (from the Cantata “Christ lag in Todesbanden”, BWV 4) | Andreas Weller (tenor), Hofkapelle Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius (conductor)
  26. Bach is the” fifth evangelist,” because his works retell the Christian story of salvation
  27. Helmut Loos, Musicologist: Bach’s music is proclamation—and deliberately elaborate proclamation at that
  28. Rehearsal: J.S. Bach: Chorus “Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg” (from the Cantata “Christ lag in Todesbanden”, BWV 4) | Chamber Choir Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius (conductor)
  29. The Leipzig Chamber Choir Josquin des Préz presents a program with music from Bach’s circle, including by Johann Kuhnau, who was musical director of the St. Thomas Choir before Johann Sebastian Bach
  30. Christoph Wolff, Director of the Bach Archive Leipzig: Bach was influenced by Kuhnau
  31. Music excerpt: Johann Kuhnau: Motet “Tristis est anima mea” (Sad is my soul) | Chamber Choir Josquin des Préz, Ludwig Böhme (conductor)
  32. Ludwig Böhme, conductor Chamber Choir Josquin des Préz: The Bach Festival is like home to him, and Bach is simply the greatest composer
  33. Bach was a sensuous man, a humble medieval craftsman who worked to honor God

© Deutsche Welle 2013


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