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Kirk McElhearn
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"As in the first volume of the series, the works selected for this disc show the full ranges of Buxtehude's keyboard styles and forms. The first work is one of Buxtehude's three arias - he had a penchant for works with variations. What he called an aria, for keyboard, was a piece containing an initial exposition and several variations. The Aria: More Palatino in C Major is a vast work; at almost 16 minutes. It is one of his longest keyboard works. It contains 12 variations, and begins with a lively exposition of the theme. The variations vary in style and ornamentation - the basic melody is present in all of them, as Buxtehude changes the forms, rhythm, and elaborations of the theme. This is an engaging work, which also provides the performer with an opportunity to show his talent.

The Suite in G minor, like Buxtehude's other suites, is in four movements that alternate slow-fast-slow-fast, although the fast movements are not very rapid. The allemande, which presents the thematic material for the suite, is a measured, moving theme that explores the limits of the meantone tuning of the instrument. The other movements follow the discourse of this thematic structure: a courante that is bouncy, but not very fast, a sarabande that is melancholic, and a gigue that recalls some of Francois Couperin's dance movements, however with less ornamentation.

The Fuga in C Major, written originally for organ, is a lively, energetic fugue, which contains the longest subject that Buxtehude used for any of his fugues: a vast, six measure theme. With a theme this long, it is more difficult to hear the elaboration of the fugue, but Buxtehude constructed here a delightful work that ends with a brisk toccata-like conclusion.

Another variation work comes next: the Courant Zimble in A minor, a series of eight variations on a courante. The dance-like nature of the form is much more apparent here than in some of Buxtehude's other pieces. This is a noble-sounding subject, which, in its first four variations, is embellished and ornamented in a variety of manners, as each variation becomes increasingly complex, with both the right and left hand parts developing. Sounding more like a chaconne, the four variations themselves do not stray from the original exposition, but rather seem to add on additional textures. The fifth variation changes the rhythmic structure slightly, and the theme is presented differently, marking the second "section" of the work. The final three variations explore further rhythmic and melodic changes, and the overall feeling of this work is one of grace and elegance.

The Suite in E minor, like the first suite, is in four movements, and, it is also in a minor key, giving the usual melancholy feeling often indicative of such keys. E minor is a particularly sad key, and Buxtehude uses chromatic notes, which sound ever so slightly "out of tune" to add a great deal of tension to the allemande. The courante is a spectacular piece, ending with a series of extensive arpeggios. The sarabande is slow and minimal, using very few notes in the right hand part, and even fewer in the left hand. This sparse movement is one of the most touching of this entire recording. Finally, the suite ends with a gigue that is as lively and energetic as the courante."

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