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José del Río

José del Río

Filmmaker José del Río and Tirabeque Productions have been following the ensemble La Capilla Real de Madrid throughout the Spanish capital for more than two years as they have performed the complete repertory of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sacred music. The result is a newly-completed documentary film, Bach in Madrid.

In 2004, the artistic director of La Capilla Real de Madrid, Óscar Gershenson, and the director of the early music ensemble Hippocampus, Alberto Martínez Molina, had a dream. They wanted to perform Bach’s cantatas, passions, Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), Magnificat (BWV 243 and 243a) and masses within an atmosphere similar to that experienced by the German master. Such a huge project had never before been attempted in Spain, and the ideas behind such a daring musical adventure excited the filmmaker.

“I wanted to make an epic documentary,” said del Río, “a documentary which reflected Bach’s marvelous music, but also the feelings of the musicians and public, the daily problems of a project so difficult, and the happiness of a job well-done.” For two years he followed the musicians, with their Baroque instruments, and hundreds of singers through a progression of old churches. Together they all shared a unique goal: to complete what seemed impossible; but, in the end, what we experience through the filmmaker’s lens are the true people of Madrid: the children, students, workers, and old women, who excitedly wait in long queues at this little chapel or that Baroque basilica, because they are going to hear Bach. And we see the busy city anticipating another concert, for a music so distant and yet so close.

Did José del Río achieve his goal? Bach in Madrid is full of emotive moments and succeeds in depicting the heroic work of artists overcoming great personal, organizational and, above all, financial difficulties. In this way he demonstrates that their art is stronger than the Spanish economic crisis and the indolence of its administration.

“To me,” del Río says, “it’s very important that this project has a continuation. It can change mentalities and serve as a lesson of courage and strength.”

Martin CidYareah Magazine