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ClassicsOnline Home » BUXTEHUDE, D.: Organ Music, Vol. 7 (Brown)
Aseminal 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 seventh volume of his organ music includes Praeludia, works that had a strong influence on the following generation of organ composers, compositions based on chorale melodies, and two sets of variations on dance melodies.
By David Denton
Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707)
Organ Music, Volume 7
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, and sometimes appearing under the title Praeludium, allowed scope for much variety. The present recording includes five examples. The Praeambulum in A minor, BuxWV 158,has been proposed as an example of a relatively early work (qv. Kerala J. Snyder: Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck, New York, 1987). Its opening section leads to a fugue, the simple subject answered at the fifth, with voices entering in descending order. This is followed by a second fugue, in 6/4, its subject announced in the tenor, to be answered by the alto and the soprano, with the final entry on the pedals.
The Praeludium in C major, BuxWV 138, survives in a single source, copied or at least preserved by Johann Christian Heinrich Rinck, a pupil of J.S. Bach's Erfurt pupil Johann Christian Kittel. The work opens with a toccata introduction, making full use of sustained pedal-points. The fugal section that follows is capped by an imposing and brief final free section.
The Praeludium in F major, BuxWV 144, starts with the expected section of free writing, which makes full use of imitation and sequences. The second section is a fugue, its subject announced in the soprano and answered by the three other voices in descending order.
Only the introductory section of the Praeludium in B flat major, BuxWV 154, survives. It is found among the manuscripts copied by Gottfried Lindemann, organist for some twenty years at Karlshamn in Sweden, and a possible pupil of Buxtehude's own pupil Gottlieb Klingenberg. The works included in the Lindemann manuscript are in the original German organ tablature used by Buxtehude.
The Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV 163, is for manuals only. The short free introductory section leads to a fugue in 12/8, the subject appearing first in the tenor, answered in the alto, followed by the soprano and finally the bass. After a quasi-improvisatory interlude a second fugal subject is announced, the voices entering in descending order. A more extended interlude, concluding over a dominant pedal, leads to another fugue, now in 12/16, the upper voices entering in ascending order, followed by the bass. This, with its concomitant chordal writing, is capped by a brief cadence.
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 three examples of the form included here are preserved in the Lindemann manuscript. The Canzona in G minor, BuxWV 173, is based on a single fugal subject, announced at the start, with the four voices entering in descending order. It is for manuals only.
Again for manuals only, the Canzonetta in C major, BuxWV 167, is a short fugue, based on a subject which opens with a repeated note. The three voices enter in descending order.
The Canzona in G major, BuxWV 170, consists of three fugues. For manuals only, it has the subject in the exposition entering in descending order of voices. The second fugue, in a gigue-like 6/8, follows the same procedure, with a third fugue that derives its subjects in part from the first fugal answer.
The Lutheran hymn or chorale had a central part in church repertoire. The chorale fantasia Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 188, (Praised be Thou, Jesus Christ), allows scope for a dramatic use of organ registration. In four sections, with a coda, it starts with a fugal treatment of the opening notes of the chorale, and the following sections continue to develop the material. The fourth section is in gigue rhythm, leading to the last part of the work with its concluding sustained pedal notes strengthening the final bars.
Ich dank dir schon durch deinen Sohn, BuxWV 195,(I thank Thee, indeed, through Thy Son), another contrapuntal chorale fantasia, falls again into distinct sections, opening with the first part of the chorale, heard most clearly in the pedals. The polyphonic texture is based on a series of melodic fragments, with interesting twists of harmony.
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV 214,(My soul, now praise the Lord), is a chorale prelude. The first line of the chorale is heard in the upper voice, echoed by the lower voice and then in the pedals, with other elements of the chorale similarly explored.
Six sets of secular variations by Buxtehude survive. His Aria with Three Variations in A minor, BuxWV 249, takes as its theme a sarabande, attributed to the French royal lutenist Germain Pinel (qv. Snyder, op.cit.). The first variation presents the dance theme, with ornamented repetitions. The two following variations are largely in rapider notes. The A minor Courant zimble with Eight Variations, BuxWV 245, is based, as its title implies, on a courante, with a final variation in the rhythm of a gigue. Both sets of variations are for manuals only.
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, D.: Organ Music, Vol. 7 (Brown)