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Claves

 

Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Organ Works
CD 1
Præludium in C Major, BuxWV 137* [5:53]
Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott / versus III, BuxWV 207* [3:29]
Wir danken, dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 224* [1:17]
Danket dem Herren / versus I, II, III, BuxWV 181* [3:19]
In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 197** [2:07]
Passacaglia in D Minor, BuxWV 161** [5:40]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211** [2:42]
Nun Lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV 212** [4:00]
Canzona in G Minor, BuxWV 173** [1:40]
Præludium in G Minor, BuxWV 148** [6:58]
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 196** [3:43]
Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 199** [4:23]
Præludium in G Minor, BuxWV 150** [6:51]
Sarabande, BuxWV 235** [1:35]
Ciacona in E Minor, BuxWV 160** [5:33]
Canzona in D Minor, BuxWV 168** [3:57]
Puer Natus in Bethlehem, BuxWV 217** [1:11]
Præludium in G Minor, BuxWV 149** [8:53]
CD 2
Vivace & Allegro (initial ostinato, arr. Kei Koito), BuxWV 255^ [6:15]
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BuxWV 185^ [2:02]
Præludium in E Minor / Quarti toni, BuxWV 152^^ [4:05]
Klag-Lied / Muss der Tod denn auch entbinden, BuxWV 76/2^^ [2:30]
Præludium in F Major, BuxWV 145^^ [7:25]
Ciacona in C Minor, BuxWV 159^^ [6:31]
Præludium in A Major, BuxWV 151^^ [5:28]
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BuxWV 220^^ [2:14]
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BuxWV 221^^ [2:25]
Præludium in D Major, BuxWV 139^^ [6:50]
Martin RADECK (ca 1640-1684)
Jesus Christus unser Heiland (in e minor, transposed to d minor)* [5:53]
BUXTEHUDE
Mit Fried und Freud, ich fahr dahin, BuxWV 76/1* [5:46]
Te Deum laudamus, BuxWV 218* [14:49]
CD 3 ‘Magnificat’
Delphin STRUNCK (1611-1694)
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren / versus I*^ [1:58]
BUXTEHUDE
Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 203 (chorale fantasia) *^ [8:15]
Magnificat noni toni, BuxWV 205/2*^ [2:12]
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (ca 1595-1663)
Magnificat primi toni, WV 14*^ [13:01]
BUXTEHUDE
Magnificat noni toni, BuxWV 205/1*^ [1:25]
Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 204/1*^ [2:13]
Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 204/2*^ [1:45]
Hieronymus PRÆTORIUS III (attributed) (1614-1629)
Magnificat primi toni*^ [10:44]
Jakob PRÆTORIUS (1586-1651)
Magnificat germanice / versus II*^ [1:50]
Matthias WECKMANN (ca 1616-1674)
Magnificat secundi toni* [8:01]
Franz TUNDER (1614-1667)
Magnificat octavi toni (chorale fantasia)* [9:09]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, BWV 648 (Schübler)* [2:34]
Fuga sopra il Magnificat: Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, BWV 733* [5:27]
Kei Koto (Hamburg, Hauptkirche St Jacobi organ*; Groningen, Martinkerk organ**; Payerne, Eglise paroissiale organ^; Roskilde Cathedral organ^^ and Tangermünde, St Stephanskirche organ*^)
rec. Groningen, Netherlands, 14-16 November, 2006; Roskilde, Denmark 15-17 May, 2007; Tangermünde, Germany, 19-21 June, 2007; Payerne, Switzerland, 16h-17 July, 2007; Hamburg, Germany, 24-27 September, 2007. DDD.
Booklet with notes in English, French and German.
CLAVES CD 50-2704/06 [3 CDs: 74:07 + 72:59 + 69:05]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Though the tercentenary year is now over, recordings of Buxtehude are still appearing. Suddenly Buxtehude’s organ music has become a crowded and hotly competed area. What a surprise it is to be spoiled for choice – and I, for one, am not complaining.
 

Buxtehude was a prolific composer but the great variety which they contain makes his organ works well worth hearing: indeed, these recent recordings serve to remind us that he is not at all eclipsed by Bach. Yet there is a strong sense of unity in all Buxtehude’s variety, a mark of the strong guiding spirit behind it all. 

The music on this new Claves set is played by Kei Koito, a Japanese former student of the eminent Baroque organ scholar Harald Vogel. When she moved to Geneva she suddenly found the historic North German organs that she had dreamed about within travelling distance. She speaks in the booklet of her thirst and passion for the music of Buxtehude and his contemporaries, enthusiasm which would have been evident from her playing even if I had not read the notes – by which I don’t mean to imply that her performances are undisciplined. The enthusiasm has clearly been filtered through academic study and understanding: I think this is the first time I have seen such a detailed and scholarly bibliography in a CD booklet.

In the sense that this is a unique document – a distinguished Japanese academic and performer seizing the opportunity to play the organs of her dreams – it is thoroughly recommendable in its own right, without recourse to comparison. Nevertheless, some comparisons with recent issues are inevitable. 

I have recently reviewed Volumes 6 and 7 of the ongoing Naxos series of Buxtehude’s organ music and the sixth and final volume of the dacapo series. As several of the pieces on this Claves 3-CD set overlap with one or more of those recitals, some comparisons are in order. I would have liked to compare Koito’s performances especially with Bryndorf’s final volume on dacapo – their approaches are similar and, like Koito, she performs on a contemporary organ – but the overlap between these two is quite small. By an odd coincidence, Koito was recording at Tangermünde on the very same dates in June, 2007, when Bryndorf was completing her cycle at Lübeck. 

Bryndorf, on the organ of St Jakobi, Lübeck, offers four verses of Nimm von uns Herr, Koito only the third verse on the St Jacobi, Hamburg, organ. Both give suitably reflective performances of this work. Bryndorf gives us the complete Funeral Music for Buxtehude’s father, Koito only a good performance of the Klaglied from that sequence, Muss der Tod denn entbinden, on the Roskilde organ. 

Strictly speaking, Koito’s performances on historic organs should not be comparable with Julia Brown’s on the Naxos CDs, except that Brown’s Pasi organ is in some ways more ‘authentic’ than the real things – it was built to be an organ for all seasons, capable of playing early music in meantone, as well as more recent music in equal temperament.

The Præludium in g, BuxWV150 appears on Volume 6 of the Naxos series. Koito’s interpretation is a good deal brisker at 6:51 than Brown’s, which takes 8:35. In the Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV204, and the Præludium in F, BuxWV145, Koito is also slightly faster than Brown. 

The picture is much the same with the one work which overlaps with Volume 7 of the Naxos. The Canzona in g, BuxWV173 takes 2:31 on Naxos, 1:40 on Claves. Brown is also slower than Bryndorf in the one piece where their recitals overlap. Does that mean that Brown is too slow or Bryndorf and Koito too fast? 

Well, neither, actually. Timings tell only part of the story; they are useful in making us ask questions about two different performances of the same piece, but the answers to those questions can be surprising. Looking back over my rough notes on all these pieces on the Naxos discs, I have not found one indication that I thought Julia Brown’s performances unduly slow. Comparing her playing with that of Bryndorf, I wrote:

Where Bryndorf emphasises the dance-like elements in the music, Brown is more meditative and reminds us more of Bach’s debt to Buxtehude. This should not be taken to mean that Bryndorf skates over the music oblivious to its deeper qualities or that Brown is slow and stodgy: both are thoroughly convincing in their own terms. Neither player seems to feel that Buxtehude’s famous Stylus Phantasticus ... means pulling the music about to make it artificially ‘exciting’. 

Substitute ‘Koito’ for ‘Bryndorf’ and you get the picture. 

Two of the works which Koito plays, the Præludium in C Major, BuxWV 137 and the Præludium in G Minor, BuxWV 148, also figure on Christopher Herrick’s Organ Fireworks XII which I recently recommended (Hyperion CDA67612 – see review). Koito gives a fine account of BuxWV137 on the organ of St Jacobi, Hamburg, and an equally fine account of BuxWV148 on the organ of the Martinikerk, Groningen, both of which would appear to have greater claims to be historically more appropriate to the music of Buxtehude. Herrick’s Haderslev organ is of no great antiquity, having been built originally in 1863 by Furtwängler & Sons, rebuilt in 1932 by Marcussen & Søn, and updated in 1977.
 
Yet, when one takes into account the various rebuilds and restorations that Koito’s two ‘historic’ organs have received, they are not particularly better suited to Buxtehude than Herrick’s Danish organ. Both the Hamburg and Groningen organs have emerged from rebuilds at rather too high a pitch for baroque music. Good as the Koito performances are, Herrick’s are just that little bit more special; she is light-fingered, he lighter still. His registration is also a touch lighter and his slightly faster tempo benefits the music. Where the ‘fireworks’ may be said to explode, at the end of BuxWV137 and at the close of the fugue of BuxWV148, both organists give it their all.
 

Each of the three CDs in the Claves set offers a well balanced programme. The Præludium in C, BuxWV137 makes a good opening to the first disc, a piece which speaks with authority and is played with authority, though Koito is light and nimble enough where appropriate. Nimm von uns is more reflective and receives a performance to match, while Wir danken dir, a short virtuoso piece with some glorious pedal-work is also well brought off. The lighter registration at the opening of Danket dem Herrn offers a striking contrast with the preceding track. In all three pieces the chorale tunes are clearly audible; the original hearers would have had no trouble in identifying them if they heard them in performances as good as Koito’s. 

These first four tracks are played on the Hamburg organ, dating from 1605-7, with modifications, of which those by Arp Schnitger (1689-93) are the most important before its restoration by Jürgen Ahrend (1981-93). At a=495.45Hz its tuning is much higher than baroque pitch, but I did not find this as troublesome as string players and others with absolute pitch may. 

Full specifications of this and all the organs are given, including their tuning and pitch. To have had the registration for each piece would have been welcome but would have made the booklet too bulky. 

The Groningen organ (track 5 onwards) is also higher than baroque pitch at a=466Hz. Some of its pipework dates from the 16th century and earlier. Again it was rebuilt by Arp Schnitger and restored by Jürgen Ahrend (1983-4). It has a bright sound, especially suited to the delicate playing in In dulci jubilo and Komm, heiliger Geist, but with some more powerful 16’ and 32’ stops, providing a powerful contrast in the Præludium in g which aptly rounds off the first CD. 

The Passacaglia in d and the three Præludia, BuxWV148-150 which form the backbone of this second section are weightier pieces. These so-called free-form pieces point the way to Bach and Koito’s playing brings out their weightiness, though she is never too heavy or over-emphatic in the pre-echoes of Bach. These are ‘big’ works in performances to match, but never overdone – for example, the opening fugues of BuxWV148 and 150 are suitably measured but never dull, with light, dancing textures where appropriate later. 

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland breathes the spirit of Advent expectancy; Koito’s apt performance offers a real contrast with Nun lob, mein Seel which follows, exultation set against a down-to-earth bass in her playing, without destroying the unity of the piece. 

In Koito’s hands the Canzona in g and the Sarabande, short pieces of real delicacy like sugar confections, dance, dazzle and are gone.

CD2 includes a set of variations on Jesus Christus unser Heiland by Buxtehude’s contemporary Martin Radeck, a composer previously unknown to me and to the Oxford Companion to Music. This adds to the variety but I am not sure why just one piece by him was included; it is attractive enough, if a little academic, and well performed here.

This second CD opens with Koito’s own attractive arrangement of part of the instrumental Sonata, BuxWV255, which receives a suitably light-hearted performance on the Payerne organ. After a good performance of Erhalt uns, Herr, equally well suited to this instrument, we move to the organ of Roskilde Cathedral, an attractive instrument which has featured on some of McCreesh’s liturgical reconstructions and, at a=432Hz, is closest to baroque pitch of all those on these CDs. Koito’s description of this instrument as “exhibit[ing] rich sonorous resources” is well borne out by her own performances, notably of the two Præludia which begin and end this section. 

For the Radeck and the remaining pieces by Buxtehude we return to the Hamburg organ. The lively and full-bodied performance of the variations on sections of the Te Deum, BuxWV218, makes an appropriate conclusion to this CD. 

The third CD offers a number of takes on aspects of the Magnificat and its German equivalent employed in Lutheran Vespers, the Latin only on major feast days such as Christmas. (Bach’s version exists with added verses for Christmas Day.) I suspect that this third CD will be mainly of academic interest in introducing us to predecessors and contemporaries of Buxtehude who are little known, even to specialists, though the music is attractive enough. 

If the work here attributed to Tunder is really his, he deserves to be better known than as the predecessor and father-in-law of Buxtehude. Hieronymus Prætorius III and Jakob Prætorius are not to be confused with the better-known Heinrich Prætorius (probably no relation). Nor is the child-genius Hieronymus III, who died at the age of 15, to be confused with his famous grandfather of the same name. The name seems to have been common among North-German organists (see the Oxford Companion to Music and Concise Grove for Jacob); in some cases, at least, it was an assumed name. Heinrich Prætorius’s real family name was Schultz or Schultheiss, but a Latin or Italian name sounded better. 

This third CD opens with performances on the Tangermünde organ, the work of Hans Scherer the Younger (1623-4) and restored in 1994. At a=486Hz it is again higher than baroque pitch but its tuning according to a system developed by Jacob Prætorius (1619) makes it an appropriate vehicle for his music. 

For most listeners the highlight of this final disc will be the performance of the two Bach pieces, the Schübler Prelude Meine Seele erhebt den Herren and the Fuga sopra il Magnificat – fine performances, on the Hamburg organ, as we began, which set the seal on a recommendable album. Just as I was completing this review, I received an EMI Triple of Bach Organ Works performed by Werner Jacob (5 09393 2, 3 CDs) containing a performance of the same Schübler Prelude, BWV248 on the Hildebrandt organ of the Wenzelskirche in Naumburg. Jacob and Koito each take 2:34 over this piece and both performances are sympathetic, but Koito’s is the more magical, mainly because her registration is simpler and understated – here less really does mean more. 

The Claves recording is good, wide-ranging, with a good sense of spatial placement and with just enough ambience to give a sense of place without the sound ever becoming muddy. The actions of the organs are almost inaudible. 

The booklet contains detailed and informative notes, with an idiomatic English translation. The cover is rather dull – it would have been more attractive to prospective buyers looking through a browser if it had offered a depiction of one of the organ photographs inside the gatefold. 

Another attractive product of the Buxtehude tercentenary; well worth considering if you haven’t begun to collect any of the complete sets. 

Brian Wilson 

 

 


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