> Dietrich Buxtehude - Seven Sonatas opus 1 [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Seven Sonatas opus 1

Sonata No I in F major BuxWV252
1. Vivace – Lento [1'49]
2. Allegro [2'52]
3. Andante [2'24]
4. Presto [1'51]
Sonata No II in G major BuxWV253
5. Lento – Vivace [3'30]
6. Allegro [1'20]
7. Arioso [2'11]
Sonata No III in A minor BuxWV254
8. Adagio [2'01]
9. Allegro [1'59]
10. Lento – Vivace [4'39]
11. Presto [2'10]
Sonata No IV in B flat major BuxWV255
12. Vivace [5'06]
13. Lento – Allegro [3'26]
Sonata No V in C major BuxWV256
14. Vivace [1'45]
15. Solo [2'01]
16. Allegro [4'44]
Sonata No VI in D minor BuxWV257
17. Grave – Allegro [2'05]
18. Con discretione [2'46]
19. Vivace [1'30]
20. Poco presto [2'09]
Sonata No VII in E minor BuxWV258
21. Allegro [2'21]
22. Presto [0'53]
23. Vivace [1'30]
24. Poco presto [2'30]
Elizabeth Wallfisch, violin
Richard Tunnicliffe, viola da gamba (incorrectly credited with playing cello on the disc)
Paul Nicholson, harpsichord
Rec: October 2000.
HYPERION CDA67236 [60.32]

Dietrich Buxtehude was a Danish composer who was later naturalized German. He spent most of his life in Lübeck, where he worked as organist at St. Mary's church. Well-known and respected during his lifetime, he was what might be called, today, a composer's composer. At the age of 20, Johann Sebastian Bach, in his strong desire to meet the master and learn from him, walked 250 miles to visit Buxtehude.

Buxtehude wrote a wide variety of music - from beautiful works for harpsichord, to masterpieces for organ, by way of vocal music. He also started a series of concerts separate from church services called Abendmusik (Evening music), to provide musical entertainment for the town's bourgeoisie.

This disc features seven sonatas that Buxtehude wrote around 1694; this is one-third of his known output of chamber music. These works are scored for violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord, and show a particularly German style of trio writing, much different from the Italian style that was prevalent at the time. Buxtehude was a master of harmony and counterpoint, and his music is rich with subtle relationships among the instruments. The gamba is used both as a continuo and melodic instrument in these works, and the harpsichord also goes beyond simply accompanying the other instruments.

The three performers who make up the ensemble Convivium are all excellent musicians in their own right, and work very well together. They present a fluid, unified sound, and their playing is very tight. However, there is a lack of drive in this recording; it sounds as though they are playing the notes and nothing more. The music itself is joyous and interesting, but perhaps the tempi chosen are a bit lacklustre - the feeling one gets when listening to this disc is that of musicians playing music, not performing it. The slow movements are very slow, and even the fast movements - such as the allegro of the A minor sonata - don’t sound quite energetic enough. The musicians are too staid; they lack verve and vigour.

Buxtehude is a slightly neglected composer, even though his organ music is well-known because of the influence it had on Bach. His harpsichord music was accorded a magnificent set of discs in recent years by Lars-Erik Mortensen. It is a shame that this disc will not be likely to help his music become better known.

Kirk McElhearn

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