Made by and originally broadcast on the BBC, these are truly outstanding programmes. They offer not just outline biographies but interesting comment and insight on the composers' lives and achievements, and their importance in the development of the art of music, from an impressive team of experts: biographers and musicologists, and conductors and artists that are associated with their music. Of course, within the limited space of an hour, the coverage cannot claim to be comprehensive; but it is a miracle how much material is crammed into each programme. Indeed, all seven programmes demand repeated viewing for full appreciation of all their riches. All include excerpts from major works played by renowned international artists. And all are filmed in the locales associated with the composers' lives and works adding an aura of immediacy and authenticity. All the programmes are narrated by Kenneth Branagh.
In the J.S. Bach film, John Eliot Gardiner extols the glory of the B Minor Mass and the St Matthew Passion. András Schiff admits that he plays something from The Well-Tempered Clavier every day of his life saying it is better than any exercise and that it is "a wonderful way of starting the day" and Johanna MacGregor calls the same composition a "revolution in the composition of keyboard music". Peter Hurford and Ton Koopman talk about the organ music. Charles Rosen speaks about the influence of Vivaldi and of the differences between the styles of Bach and Handel. Mark Williams covers Bach's contrapuntal writing and Jacques Loussier, Bach's rich harmonies. There are also contributions from Mozart authorities: Christoff Wolff and Robert Marshall plus Karen Armstrong; and Jonathan Miller tells how much emotionally he is affected by the St Matthew Passion.
In the Mozart programme the contributors include: Sir Georg Solti, Sir Colin Davis, Imogen Cooper, and H.C. Robbins Landon. The conditions for Mozart's appearance as the first freelance child prodigy and how Mozart became the first modern piano concerto composer are among the many themes discussed in this wide ranging and stimulating programme.