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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Sacred Cantatas
Ich habe Lust abzuscheiden, BuxWV 47
Salve, Jesu, Patris gnate unigenite, BuxWV 94 for two sopranos, two violins and basso continuo
Jesu dulcis memoria, BuxWV 56 for two sopranos, two violins, violone and basso continuo
Mein Herz ist bereit, BuxWV 73* for bass, three violins, violone and basso continuo
Fuga, BuxWV 174 in C major
Cantate Domino, BuxWV 12 for two sopranos, bass and basso continuo
Ich halte es dafür, BuxWV 48† for soprano, bass, violin, viola, violone and basso continuo
Herr, wenn ich nur dich hab, BuxWV 38† for soprano, two violins, violone and basso continuo
Jesu, meine Freude, BuxWV 60 for two sopranos, bass, two violins, violone and basso continuo
Suzie Le Blanc, soprano †
Emma Kirkby, soprano
Peter Harvey, bass
Purcell Quartet
with Claire Salaman, violin*
Rec: February 2002, St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London.


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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.

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 magnificent recording features a selection of his sacred cantatas, performed with very small-scale forces: the Purcell Quartet is made up of a violin, a viola, a violone and a continuo organ (plus an additional violin for one of the pieces). This almost ascetic group lets all the focus be on the vocal soloists. And what soloists! Emma Kirkby is excellent as always, Suzie Le Blanc is riveting, and Peter Harvey is a bit restrained but also very moving.

This recording is much more than the sum of its parts. Not only are the musicians exemplary, and the soloists top-notch, but they meld in such perfection that almost every note on this disc is pure joy. The recording has just the right amount of reverberation from the setting in which it was made, and all the instruments fill the soundscape in an ideal fashion. This is indeed a disc to appreciate through headphones, if possible.

The cantatas here are relatively short works, from seven to just over twelve minutes long. Sung to Latin texts for some and German for others, they often alternate voice and instruments in a solo-tutti form. There are no musical pyrotechnics here, just beautiful melodies and lush harmonies. Add to that the perfect combination of Kirby and Le Blanc's voices, in the cantatas where they sing together, and the ideal sound of Peter Harvey singing along with them.

A wonderful interlude is the performance by Robert Woolley of the Fugue BuxWV 174 in C major for organ. Buxtehude's organ music is generally performed on large church organs, and this interpretation on a small continuo organ lets the listener discover the subtle counterpoint of the fugue in a much different setting, one where the individual voices come through more clearly than in the imposing resonance of a great organ.

This is a beautiful recording, full of joy and energy, with some magnificent music-making and excellent singing. The entire disc as a pleasure, and the ideal balance between the musicians and instrumentalists lets this music come alive.

Kirk McElhearn

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