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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Quiet Entertainment for Holy Week



In this most solemn week if you still seek diversion and consider "The Sopranos" or "The Office" unsuitable, you could do far worse than the following:

Jesus of Nazareth: Franco Zefirelli, director.

This six-and-a-half hour, made-for-TV movie on the life of our Lord premiered to huge acclaim in 1977 and then pretty much disappeared. I watched that premier and for me there is no better cinematic retelling of the Gospels. Produced by Lew Grade, it has an unbelievable cast and was beautifully shot (it's Zefirelli, after all) on location. The only drawbacks are the DVD is made from an old and worn print with scratches and somewhat faded color. Also, while the sound quality is acceptable, it is only barely so. The virtues, however, far outweigh the flaws. Amazon has it, so does Netflix.

Bach: St. Matthew and St. John Passions; Phillippe Herreweghe, conductor.

There are zillions of recordings of the Bach Passions, many of them wonderful, but I think Herreweghe's are the best (he recorded the St. Matthew twice: they're both fine). Herreweghe is the only conductor I know who, while adhering to period performance practices, is not afraid to bend and shape a musical line like a romantic. It's as if Wilhelm Furtwängler were conducting an early music ensemble. This is some of the most glorious music ever written by the greatest composer of them all, whom God was kindly disposed to give to us, His beloved creatures.

Happy Easter.

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