BUXTEHUDE: Organ Music, Vol. 4 (Craig Cramer/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.557195)
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Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707)
Organ Works Volume 4
The imperial free city of L??beck, a member of theHanseatic League, had held a position second only toHamburg. The development of the latter during theseventeenth century was very considerable. L??beck, onthe other hand, fared less well, but remained,nevertheless, an important commercial centre. Much ofthe musical life of the city centred on the Marienkirche,the church of the city council, where Franz Tunder hadbeen appointed organist in 1641. Tunder, a composerable to further the synthesis of the Lutheran with theItalian influences exemplified in the music of HeinrichSch??tz, established weekly Thursday organ recitals thatgrew into more elaborate concerts, with instrumentalplayers from among the seven official town musiciansand others, and with singers.
Dietrich Buxtehude, who identified himself asDanish, was seemingly born in Oldesloe about the year1637, the son of an organist and schoolmaster. His fathermoved briefly from Oldesloe, in the Duchy of Holstein,to Helsingborg as organist at the Mariekirke there andsoon after to the Danish city of Helsing?©r, Hamlet'sElsinore, as organist at the St Olai Kirke, a position heheld for some thirty years, until his retirement in 1671.
Buxtehude was taught by his father and from 1657 or1658 until 1660 was organist at the Mariekirke inHelsingborg, a city separated from Helsing?©r by anarrow stretch of water. His next appointment was at theMariekirke in the latter city. In 1668 he was electedorganist at the Marienkirche in L??beck, where hesucceeded Franz Tunder, who had died the previousyear, following custom by marrying Tunder's youngerdaughter. Tunder's elder daughter's security had alreadybeen assured by her marriage to Samuel Franck, Cantorof the Marienkirche and the Catherineum Lateinschule,the choir-school that provided singers for the services ofthe Marienkirche.
At the Marienkirche in L??beck Buxtehude madesome changes in the musical traditions of the church,establishing a series of Abendmusik concerts given nowon five Sunday afternoons in the year, events thatattracted wide interest. As an organist Buxtehuderepresented the height of North German keyboardtraditions, exercising a decisive influence over thefollowing generation, notably on Johann SebastianBach, who undertook the long journey from Arnstadt toL??beck to hear him play, outstaying his leave, to thedissatisfaction of his employers. Handel too visitedL??beck in 1703, with his Hamburg friend and colleagueMattheson. By this time there was a question ofappointing a successor to Buxtehude, who was nearlyseventy and had spent over thirty years at theMarienkirche. The condition of marriage to hispredecessor's daughter that Buxtehude had faithfullyfulfilled proved unattractive, however, to the youngmusicians of the newer generation and the successioneventually passed to Johann Christian Schieferdecker,who married Buxtehude's surviving daughter,predeceased by four others, three months afterBuxtehude's death in 1707.
In the Marienkirche in L??beck there were two threemanualorgans. The larger instrument was on the Westwall of the nave of the church and the smaller was sitedin the Totentanz chapel, so called from the paintingdisplayed there of The Dance of Death, by the fifteenthcenturyL??beck painter Bernt Notke, a reminder of anearlier epidemic of the plague. Both instrumentsaccorded with current North German practice, with aparticularly impressive array of pedal stops, theprincipal organ including a 32-foot pedal Principal.
The Praeludium or Praeambulum, a prelude, is afree form and one in which Buxtehude excelled. ThePraeludium in D minor, BuxWV 140, is a considerablework, in five parts, with free sections framing twofugues, the first of which is in triple counterpoint, withtwo countersubjects, while the second fugue is in triplemetre. The Praeludium in E major, BuxWV 141, hasthree fugues, the second in 12/8, and the third, after abrief Adagio section, is capped by a short coda. The thirdexample of the form included here, the Praeludium in Eminor, BuxWV 143, opens with a passage for the pedals,followed by a sustained pedal note as the upper partsenter on the manuals. The final figuration on the pedalsleads to the first fugal subject, answered by voices indescending order, with a second subject more fullyworked out. A further fugal subject in triple metre isfollowed by a final impressive Adagio.
The Canzona or Canzonetta is a contrapuntalcomposition. The first of three included here, theCanzonetta in G major, BuxWV 171, opens with a fugalsubject, the other three voices answering in descendingorder. In a second fugue, on a related subject, in 12/8,with dotted notes in the manner of a siciliano, the voicesat first appear in ascending order. The Canzonetta in Dminor, BuxWV 168, again starts with a fugal subject, thefour voices entering in descending order. A secondrelated subject, based first on the contrapuntal answer ofthe first fugue, is in triple metre, returning to the 4/4 ofthe opening with a third fugal subject, answered by aversion of it in contrary motion, with voicesoverlapping, using the device of stretto, as in the secondfugue. The Canzonetta in E minor, BuxWV 169, startswith a fugal subject in the alto, with a tonal answer in thesoprano, before the entry of the other voices. A secondrelated subject, not further elaborated, is answered bythe opening theme in a final fugal texture.
Two examples of Buxtehude's Chorale Variationsare included here. The first, Ach Gott und Herr, wie gro?ƒund schwer, BuxWV 177, (Ah, God and Lord, how greatand heavy my sins), has the chorale melody firstpresented on the pedals, followed by a variation. Thesecond example, Danket dem Herrn, denn er ist sehrfreundlich, BuxWV 181, (Thank ye the Lord, for he isvery gracious), gives the chorale melody to the upperpart, to be heard on the pedals in the first variation andin the lowest part in the second variation.
The chorale, the hymn of German Lutheranworship, provided a thematic repertoire for extensionand ornamentation also in the organ Chorale Preludes, apossible introduction to the hymn itself, althoughcongregations occasionally found the theme that theywere supposed to take up understandably elusive, afailing that necessitated some form of hymn-board, toaid recognition. Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist,BuxWV 208, (Now let us beg true faith of the HolyGhost), has the ornamented melody in the top part, andKomm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 200, (Come,Holy Ghost, Lord God), follows the same procedure,leading to a fugal texture. Herr Jesu Christ, ich wei?ƒ garwohl, BuxWV 193, (Lord Jesus Christ, I know full well),has the melody in relatively simple form in the top part,and Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 189, (Praisedbe thou, Jesus Christ), again has the chorale theme, nowdecorated, in the top part, while Nun komm, der HeidenHeiland, BuxWV 211, (Now come, Saviour of theGentiles) follows the same pattern. Puer natus inBethlehem, BuxWV 217, (A boy is born in Bethlehem),is simpler in form, preserving the usual triple metre ofthe chorale on which it is based. Lobt Gott, ihr Christenallzugleich, BuxWV 202, (Praise God, ye Christians, alltogether), opens in fugal style, and Es spricht derunweisen Mund wohl, BuxWV 187, (The lips of thefoolish say), has the melody in the upper part, reflectedfragmentarily in other parts.
The present recording ends with an extendedToccata in D minor, BuxWV 155. The opening freesection leads to a fugal passage in which the voicesenter in stretto, overlapping, followed by two otherfugal subjects, duly explored, and then a more elaboratetriple fugue, the work ending with a final flourish withtriplet rhythms over a sustained pedal note.Keith Anderson