About this Recording
8.555991 - BUXTEHUDE: Organ Music, Vol. 3
English  German 

Dietrich Buxtehude (c

Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707)

Organ Music Volume 3


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.


The Praeludium or Praeambulum, a prelude, is a free form and one in which Buxtehude excelled. The Praeludium in F sharp minor, BuxWV 146, presents obvious questions as to the tuning system used for the work, written in a key that calls for D sharp and E sharp. It starts with a toccata-like section, built over an F sharp pedal, leading to a chordal section. There follows a fugue marked Grave, with a wide-spaced subject and voices entering in descending order. A second less formal fugal section is marked Vivace, leading in turn to a free final section marked con discretione and moving to remoter keys, the whole prelude an example of the so-called Stylus phantasticus.


The chorale, the hymn of German Lutheran worship, provided a thematic repertoire for extension and ornamentation in the organ Chorale Fantasia and in Chorale Preludes, the latter a possible introduction to the hymn itself, although congregations occasionally found the theme that they were supposed to take up elusive.


Buxtehude’s chorale prelude Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BuxWV 180 (Christ Our Lord to Jordan came), presents the melody in an ornamented form in the upper part. The prelude on Der Tag der ist so freudenreich, BuxWV 182, (The day that is so joyful), again offers an ornamented version of the melody in the upper part, closing over a sustained pedal note.


The Ciacona in C minor, BuxWV 159, is one of two such works by Buxtehude. Between the baroque variation forms of the chaconne and passacaglia he seems to have made no real distinction, although his Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161, keeps the theme on which it is based in the bass, while transposing it when necessary. Both forms were rare at the time in North Germany and the three examples by Buxtehude reflect southern influence. The Chaconne in C minor has a wide-spaced ostinato heard in the pedals for the first seven variations built on it, before a passage for manuals only. There is a varied version of the ostinato for the pedals in what follows, with further variations of the ostinato and of texture and rhythm. This leads to a 9/8 section, syncopation and a final solemn statement of the ostinato.


The chorale melody is well concealed from the congregation in the elaborate ornamentation of the familiar Martin Luther hymn Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BuxWV 184, (A firm stronghold our God is), offered in the customary four-part texture. Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort, BuxWV 185, (Keep us, Lord, true to thy word) is one of two such works based on this chorale, with the decorated melody in the upper part.


The liturgical purpose of Buxtehude’s Te Deum, BuxWV 218, is not clear, as it is apparently based on the Latin version of the chant, seemingly not used in Lübeck, however familiar it may have been in major Lutheran churches elsewhere in North Germany. The Praeludium opens with the two upper voices in canon, followed by a fugal section. The Te Deum is represented by the incipit, heard first in long notes in the lower part, returning in various parts thereafter and forming an essential part of the texture. The third part of the work, Pleni sunt coeli et terra (Heaven and earth are full of thy glory) has the cantus firmus first suggested in an upper part, continuing with elements of fugal texture. This extended work proceeds to Te Martyrium candidatus laudat exercitus (The noble army of martyrs praise thee), opened by the pedals, which have the cantus firmus. The work ends with Tu devicto mortis aculeo (When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death), which is fugal and based on the opening recurrent figure.


The chorale prelude Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, BuxWV 183, (Through Adam’s fall man was completely corrupted), suggests Adam’s fall in the descending fifths of the pedal part, although not as dramatically as Bach was later to do. It seems, in its conventionally major key ending, to reflect the later verse of the chorale, which promises redemption.


Buxtehude’s Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161, keeps the ground in the bottom part, with occasional transpositions. Syncopated variations lead to a change from 3/4 to 9/8, before the quadruple division of triple time is restored in a piece that explores a wide tonal range, with four-part or five-part textures.


Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, BuxWV 186, (Salvation has come to us) has the chorale melody in the upper part, clearly heard at first, but continuing with slightly increased elaboration.


The Praeludium in E minor, BuxWV 142, is a fine example of a form for which Buxtehude was greatly admired. Its introductory section leads to a fugue in which the four voices enter in descending order, fully worked out. A second fugue, in 3/2, follows, with a descending chromatic subject that has possibilities of inversion. Here the inner voices enter first, followed by the top voice and the lowest. A free conclusion leads to a third fugue, in gigue-like 12/8, with voices entering in descending order.


Keith Anderson



The Brombaugh Organ, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon


Great              Manual II

Præstant  (from F)   16+

Octave                                                8+

Rohrflöte                                           8

Oak Gamba                                      8

Octave                                                4

Spitzflöte                                            4

Quinte                                                22/3

Octave                                                2

Tierce                                     13/5

Mixture                                   VI-X

Trumpet                                             8*

Vox Humana                                     8



Subbass                                           16+

Octave                                                8+

Præstant       (in upper facade)     4

Nachthorn                                         2

Mixture                                               V

Posaune                                           16

Trumpet                                             8*

Trumpet                                             4

Cornett                                               2


Ruckpositive                        -           Manual I

Quintadena                                       16

Præstant       (from G)         8+

Gedackt                                             8+

Octave                                                4

Rohrflöte                                           4

Waldflöte                                           2

Sifflet                                      11/3

Sesquialtera                                     II

Scharff                                   III-V

Dulcian                                              8



* Great stop playable in Pedal by transmission


+ Some bass notes common with pipes of another stop


Brustwerk    -           Manual III

Oak Gedackt                                     8

Blockflöte                  (oak)   4

Principal                                            2

Cimbel                                               III

Cornet            (c’/cis’)                       IV

Rankett                                              16

Trechterregal                                                8



Couplers, etc

Great  -                       Pedal

Ruckpositive -                       Pedal

Ruckpositive -                       Great

Brustwerk      -                       Great

Bw Cornet                 c/cis’ shift

Cymbelstern,                        Nightingale

Tremulant, adjustable;

Wind stabilizer, adjustable


Close the window