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
- dont 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.