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ClassicsOnline Home » BUXTEHUDE: Organ Music, Vol. 6 (Brown)
A seminal figure in the development of North German organ music, Buxtehude spent the greater part of his long career in Lübeck, where he was visited by the young Handel and Bach, eager to hear his legendary performances. This sixth volume of his complete organ music includes four Praeludia, works that had a strong influence on the following generation of organ composers, and compositions based on chorale melodies, including two versions of Nun lob, mein seel, den Herrn.
By David Denton
Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637–1707)
Organ Works, Volume 6
The imperial free city of Lübeck, a member of the Hanseatic League, had held a position second only to Hamburg. The development of the latter during the seventeenth century was very considerable. Lübeck, on the other hand, fared less well, but remained, nevertheless, an important commercial centre. Much of the musical life of the city centred on the Marienkirche, the church of the city council, where Franz Tunder had been appointed organist in 1641. Tunder, a composer able to further the synthesis of the Lutheran with the Italian influences exemplified in the music of Heinrich Schütz, established weekly Thursday organ recitals that grew into more elaborate concerts, with instrumental players from among the seven official town musicians and others, and with singers.
Dietrich Buxtehude, who identified himself as Danish, was seemingly born in Oldesloe about the year 1637, the son of an organist and schoolmaster. His father moved briefly from Oldesloe, in the Duchy of Holstein, to Helsingborg as organist at the Mariekirke there and soon after to the Danish city of Helsingør, Hamlet's Elsinore, as organist at the St Olai Kirke, a position he held for some thirty years, until his retirement in 1671. Buxtehude was taught by his father and from 1657 or 1658 until 1660 was organist at the Mariekirke in Helsingborg, a city separated from Helsingør by a narrow stretch of water. His next appointment was at the Mariekirke in the latter city. In 1668 he was elected organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, where he succeeded Franz Tunder, who had died the previous year, following custom by marrying Tunder's younger daughter. Tunder's elder daughter's security had already been assured by her marriage to Samuel Franck, Cantor of the Marienkirche and the Catherineum Lateinschule, the choir-school that provided singers for the services of the Marienkirche.
At the Marienkirche in Lübeck Buxtehude made some changes in the musical traditions of the church, establishing a series of Abendmusik concerts given now on five Sunday afternoons in the year, events that attracted wide interest. As an organist Buxtehude represented the height of North German keyboard traditions, exercising a decisive influence over the following generation, notably on Johann Sebastian Bach, who undertook the long journey from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear him play, outstaying his leave, to the dissatisfaction of his employers. Handel too visited Lübeck in 1703, with his Hamburg friend and colleague Mattheson. By this time there was a question of appointing a successor to Buxtehude, who was nearly seventy and had spent over thirty years at the Marienkirche. The condition of marriage to his predecessor's daughter that Buxtehude had faithfully fulfilled proved unattractive, however, to the young musicians of the newer generation and the succession eventually passed to Johann Christian Schieferdecker, who married Buxtehude's surviving daughter, predeceased by four others, three months after Buxtehude's death in 1707.
In the Marienkirche in Lübeck there were two three-manual organs. The larger instrument was on the West wall of the nave of the church and the smaller was sited in the Totentanz chapel, so called from the painting displayed there of The Dance of Death, by the fifteenth-century Lübeck painter Bernt Notke, a reminder of an earlier epidemic of the plague. Both instruments accorded with current North German practice, with a particularly impressive array of pedal stops, the principal organ including a 32-foot pedal Principal.
Buxtehude's reputation among his immediate successors rested very largely on his Praeludia, a number of which are preserved primarily in eighteenth-century copies. The form, related to that of the Toccata, its origin implied in its title, allowed scope for much variety. The present recording includes four examples. The Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV 150, follows the introductory embellished G minor chord with a quasi-fugal section, principally over a tonic pedal. A more formal fugal section is introduced by the subject in the tenor, answered by the alto and the soprano, and finally by the bass in the pedals. A second subject is introduced, with a rapider fugal continuation, before the appearance of a final, more formal fugue with a related subject.
The Praeludium in F major, BuxWV 145, has a toccata-style quasi-improvisatory opening, followed by a passage in compound metre and a quadruple metre section. The first formal fugal section starts with a figure repeated three times, its appearance punctuated by rests. This is presented in the upper voice, answered by the alto, tenor and finally, in the pedals, the bass.
The Praeludium in C major, BuxWV 136, follows its opening preamble with a fugue that offers two subjects almost from the outset. A second and third fugue follow on related subjects, the last in compound metre.
For manuals only, the Praeludium in G major, BuxWV 162, opens with the usual toccata-style introduction, leading to a four-voice fugue in which voices enter in descending order. A second fugue follows, with a related subject in 6/8, the whole concluding in a brief quasi-improvisatory passage.
The Toccata in G major, BuxWV 165, again for manuals only, is preserved in a copy by Johann Sebastian Bach's elder brother, Johann Christoph Bach, organist in Ohrdruf, where Johann Sebastian moved after the death of his parents. A second copy, with elaborate ornamentation and fingering, is by a younger musician, Johann Gottlieb Preller, later cantor in Dortmund. While Preller was presumably copying a manuscript copy of the work current among disciples or relatives of Bach, it is thought that both ornamentation and fingering may reflect rather Preller's own marked ability as a keyboard player. After its improvisatory opening section the toccata offers a fugue that breaks into compound metre before its closing section.
The instrumental Canzona has its origin in vocal music, the French chanson. Buxtehude's use of the form, derived from Froberger, and by him from Frescobaldi, is fugal, a further step towards the development of the fugue. The Canzona in C major, BuxWV 166, falls into three fugal sections. For manuals only, its first fugue, with a semiquaver subject, is followed by a related 6/8 subject. A cadential flourish leads to a final fugue in quadruple metre, with a related semiquaver subject. The three fugues of the Canzonetta in A minor, BuxWV 225, follow a similar pattern.
The Lutheran hymn or chorale had a central part in church repertoire. The chorale prelude Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BuxWV 222, as is usual, presents the chorale melody in the upper part, adding ornamentation, but preserving the melody clearly enough. The chorale prelude Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herrn, BuxWV 215, one of several versions of this melody and for manuals only, is in 3/2 and presents the chorale melody in the soprano part. BuxWV 213 is a more extended work, a set of three chorale variations. The first version, in two-part writing for the keyboard, again offers the chorale melody in the upper part. The second variation is a more elaborate version, for manuals and in three voices. The pedals are used for the chorale melody in the third version, which introduces increasing elaboration.
Buxtehude's Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 204, is again a chorale variation, a short introductory passage leading to fugato sections. It is grouped in the only surviving source with a movement described as Magnificat noni toni, but this is, in fact, in the first tone, forming a pair with the preceding work. The two further movements from the same source and listed now as Magnificat noni toni, BuxWV 205, are included in Vol. 1 of the present series (Naxos 8.554543).
Ich danke dir, lieber Herre, BuxWV 194, is a chorale fantasia, introducing changes of timbre and of tempo. The first phrase of the chorale melody, in the upper part, is followed by a rapider passage for two voices in canon. Other phrases from the chorale are introduced, sometimes in canon, to be repeated and developed contrapuntally. A section in 6/4 leads to a brief conclusion.
Auf meinen lieben Gott, BuxWV 179, is in the form of a partita or suite for manuals only, perhaps intended for the harpsichord, although its choice of dance movements would not necessarily exclude church use. Based again on a chorale, the ornamented melody is presented first in the upper part, followed by a Double, a variation in rapider notes. This is followed by a Sarabande in characteristic rhythm and a Courante. The work duly ends with a Gigue.
Martin Pasi Organ, Opus 14
St Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska
Stops labeled (+) are comprised of 20 pipes per octave, playable in both 1/4 comma meantone and a well-tempered tuning.
Great Organ (Manual I)
16' Præstant +
8' Octave +
8' Rohrflöte +
4' Octave +
2 2/3' Quinte +
2' Superoctave +
1 1/3' Mixture V +
1' Mixture V
8' Cornet V (Discant)
16' Trumpet +
8' Trumpet +
8' Vox Humana +
Positive Organ (Manual II)
8' Præstant +
8' Suavial (Discant) +
8' Gedeckt +
4' Octave +
4' Rohrflöte +
2 2/3' Sesquialtera II +
2' Octave +
2' Waldflöte +
1 1/3' Quinte +
1' Mixture IV +
16' Dulzian +
8' Trechterregal +
Swell Organ (Manual III)
8' Harmonic Flute
8' Celeste (Tenor C)
4' Harmonic Flute
2 2/3' Nazard
1 3/5' Tierce
2' Mixture V
16' Præstant +
8' Octave +
4' Octave +
2 2/3' Mixture V +
16' Posaune +
8' Trumpet +
2' Cornet +
Mechanical and electric stop-action
Solid state combination system
Wind system: four wedge shaped bellows fed by blower or foot pumped
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BUXTEHUDE: Organ Music, Vol. 6 (Brown)