Review By Lynn René Bayley,Fanfare,January 2009
Lars Ulrik Mortensen’s series of Buxtehude’s harpsichord music continues apace with this second release from Naxos. Like the first, there is much to enjoy here, even though these pieces are comparatively smaller works except for the variations on More Palatino and the Suites in G and E Minor. The former, based on a student drinking song, is a delightful excursion into Buxtehude’s kitchen, so to speak; his variations are more dance-like, less complex, than his writing in the sonatas. The Suite in G Minor, on the other hand, is less regular in rhythm, less predictable in its direction. Its construction is based more on an exploration of harmony and rhythm than on any melodic or thematic content. The Courante, in particular, is richly scored for its
I really enjoyed the Fugue in C, a lively 6/8 tune, full of swagger, the contrapuntal lines set spinning about 45 seconds into the piece and continuing to build throughout its brief duration of less than three minutes—it builds to a strong climax before leveling off, surprisingly, to a quiet finish. The Courant Zimble with 8 Variations I found to be even more interesting than its predecessor, each of the short movements flowing into one another like little mountain trickles into a stream; each succeeding variation almost seemed a variant, not of the original theme, but of the variation preceding. In the fifth variation, he puts the damper on and explores very dry, low-register plectrum effects with good results; in the seventh, the damper is only partway on and he explores the upper middle registers. This is indeed Buxtehude at his best. The Canzonetta in G was pleasant but not terribly interesting.
The Suite in E Minor, similar in structure and approach to the one in G Minor, was to my ears more “regular” in its construction, a shade less innovative, yet nonetheless effective on its own terms. I didn’t mind hearing it once, but it’s not a piece I would revisit except for the final Gigue, livelier and more inventive than its predecessor is. The Canzona in G, longer than the Canzonetta, went through some changes in tempo and mood, with odd pauses and stutter-rhythm here and there. I found the concluding setting of Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren to be a very low-key piece for a closer.
As in his previous issue, Mortensen’s playing is delightful, full of odd rubato touches that make (to reverse the Biblical quote used by Handel) “the plain places rough.” Sound quality is phenomenal, natural, clear, and wholly realistic.