About this Recording
8.557555 - BUXTEHUDE: Organ Music, Vol. 5
English  German 

Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707)
Organ Works, Volume 5


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 present recording opens and closes with a Toccata. The Toccata in F major, BuxWV 157, is in two sections. The first of these is in free form, much of it over sustained pedal notes. The second section is a four-voice fugue, the brief subject entering in each voice in descending order. The fugue ends over a tonic pedal. The more elaborate Toccata in F major, BuxWV 156, opens in free form, including a 12/8 section in fugal texture. The first fugue proper, its four voices entering in descending order, is followed by a free-form section, again including a passage in 12/8. The second fugue is soon followed by freer writing as the work draws to an end over a tonic pedal.

The Praeludium or Praeambulum, a prelude, is a free form, differing from the Toccata principally in its title. The Praeludium in A major, BuxWV 151, starts with the expected free section, followed by a fugue. This leads to a further free section, an Adagio, capped by a final fugal section. The Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV 148, is a work of greater complexity. After the free-form opening there is a fugue in which the upper three voices enter in ascending order on the manuals, before the final entry of the pedals. A large scale fugue follows, with the four voices entering in descending order, and this is followed by a final Chaconne, the characteristic bass introduced first by the pedals alone.

The Fugue in G major, BuxWV 175, for manuals only, makes use of an inversion of the answer to the subject of the first fugue as the subject for the second, while the third fugue is derived from the same material, with the subject of the first fugue answered by a version of the answer to the subject of the second fugue, which explores the further possibilities of inversions of the subject and a final stretto. The Fugue in B flat major, BuxWV 176, also for manuals only, consists of three fugues. The first is followed by a short freer section, while the second fugue leads directly to a final gigue fugue. The Canzona or Canzonetta is a similar form of contrapuntal composition. The Canzonetta in G major, BuxWV 172, for manuals only, offers a relatively simple single fugue.

The chorale, the hymn of German Lutheran worship, provided a thematic basis for a great deal of organ repertoire. The present recording includes two Chorale Fantasias. The first of these, Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein, BuxWV 210 (Now rejoice, all ye children of God) uses a melody taken by Martin Luther from a secular source. The hymn melody is first heard ornamented in the upper part in the first of the ten sections that make up the work. Thereafter it is treated in various ways, fragmentarily, with chromatic additional parts and in varied metres, including a passage in 3/2 and a contrapuntal section in 12/8 compound time. The eighth section uses a descending chromatic counter melody in triple counterpoint, and the ninth leads to a final apotheosis with the pedal-points of the last section. Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 196, (I call to thee, Lord Jesus Christ), is a less elaborate work. The chorale melody is heard first in longer notes in the upper part, before undergoing various transformations, including a brief passage in compound time, syncopation and the final sustained pedal notes.

The Chorale Prelude might serve as an introduction to the hymn itself, although congregations occasionally found the theme that they were supposed to take up elusive, a failing that necessitated some form of hymnboard, to aid recognition. Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BuxWV 220, (Now from God I will not part), the first of two versions of the chorale, starts with a contrapuntal foreshadowing of the opening phrase of the chorale, the melody of which is heard clearly in the upper part, before subsequent elaboration. Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 201 (Come to me, says the Son of God) presents the chorale melody in a more ornamented form, and Mensch willst du leben seliglich, BuxWV 206 (Man, wouldst thou live in happiness) is in similar form, offering a curious quirk of harmony at the final cadence. Vater unser im Himmelreich, BuxWV 219 (Our Father, which art in heaven) follows the same pattern, common to the majority of Buxtehude's 32 chorale settings.

Keith Anderson

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