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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c. 1637-1707)
Complete Organ Works, Volume 1:
Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV 149
Nun Komm , der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 189
Puer Natus in Bethlehem, BuxWV 217
Der Tag der ist so freudenreich, BuxWV 182
In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 197
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzu gleich, BuxWV 202
Ciacona in C minor, BuxWV 159
Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161
Ciacona in E minor, BuxWV 160
Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV 148
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, BuxWV 198
Komm, Heilger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 199
Nun bitten wir den Heilgen Geist, BuxWV 209
Nun bitten wir den Heilgen Geist, BuxWV 208
Komm, Heilger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 200
Gott der Vater wohn uns bei, BuxWV 190
Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137
Bine Bryndorf, organ
Recorded on Buxtehude Organ at St. Mary’s Church, Elsinore, Denmark, June 2002
DACAPO 8.226002 [65’36]



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This is the first volume of a planned traversal of the Buxtehude organ works by the Danish record company DACAPO. Bine Bryndorf, an excellent artist who specializes in performing Baroque music on historical organs, has the honors. As it happens Naxos has also embarked on a complete cycle and recently issued its 4th Volume. The Naxos schematic involves a variety of organists, but DACAPO plans its series to be an all-Bryndorf affair. Another difference is that the Naxos series has been progressing at a snail’s pace, while Bryndorf’s 2nd Volume was already released just a couple of weeks ago.

You might remember Bine Bryndorf as one of the featured organists in the Hänssler Bach Anniversary Series a short number of years ago. For those recordings, she was listed as Katherine Bine Bryndorf. Why the name is now shorter is anyone’s guess, but the important thing is that her Bach performances were generally excellent and one of the highlights of the Hänssler series. Concerning her name, it will be interesting to see if she continues to shorten it in future volumes.

For her first Buxtehude disc, Bryndorf plays the organ at St. Mary’s Church in Elsinore that Buxtehude played extensively from 1658 to 1668; Bryndorf also performed on this organ as a youngster. Built by Johan Lorentz in 1641, the organ has been repaired and renovated a number of times. Its most recent refurbishing took place in 1997 and entailed new construction by Marcussen & Son of the old body. I won’t go into the organ’s specifications, but they are given in the booklet notes with the CD.

The music of Buxtehude represents a crucial link in the journey from the rigid architectural forms of the 16th century to the critical dominance of Bach during the high Baroque period. This journey began in the early 17th century with the emergence of greater flexibility in compositional style that reached its apex in Buxtehude’s era under the banner "Stylus Phantasticus" that graces the front cover of Bryndorf’s disc.

Buxtehude’s organ music ranges from the free style of the Praeludium that does not draw on any pre-existing melodies to the settings of traditional Lutheran chorales. The typical Buxtehude Praeludium consists of many sections made up of multiple fugues and toccata-like subjects that are extremely sharp, impetuous, and powerful. These works are the epitome of the "Stylus Phantasticus" and Buxtehude’s greatest creations for organ. For his organ chorales, Buxtehude offers dense harmonies from the lower voices with the upper voices supplying ornamented melody lines.

In addition, Bryndorf gives us the two Ciacona works and the only Passacaglia Buxtehude composed. Both types of works are quite similar except for the slower tempos of the Passacaglia. They are based on a series of notes played over and over throughout the work by the bass line set against an upper voice melody that is subjected to numerous variations.

The St. Mary’s organ sounds to be a magnificent instrument ideal for Buxtehude’s music. The pedals do convey a slightly muffled tone, but there is not any measurable damage to the performances. In all other respects, the sound quality is exceptional.

Finding the Bryndorf performances to have both significant pros and cons, I will frame my review in terms of positive, negative, and controversial considerations:

Positive Considerations – Bryndorf’s strengths are her majesty, grandeur and momentum. She is demonstrative, but never bitter or overly severe. Overall, her performances are very stylish and attractive. Tempos are uniformly quicker than the norm, but they sound natural and are used to invest Buxtehude’s music with enhanced drive and inevitability. Above all else though, Bryndorf is about public ceremony just as she was in her Bach recordings for Hänssler.

Among the many excellent performances on the disc, two are particularly exceptional. The Praeludium BuxWV 149 has a fantastic introduction that Bryndorf delivers in a wildly intense fashion. The work begins with the manuals blazing through the sky at a dizzying speed. The pedals then enter with Bryndorf investing them with a ‘pure evil’ persona. As if this isn’t enough, the manuals proceed to convey the ‘Mad Wizard’ at work. Bryndorf plays this tremendously powerful and ominous music to the hilt. The other superior interpretation is of the Chorale BuxWV 199 where Bryndorf’s majesty reaches it apex with a rhythmic lift and edge I’ve not heard from any other recording of the work.

Negative Considerations – The one major item lacking in Bryndorf’s performances concerns variety. She changes registrations infrequently and generally within a very narrow band. Her dynamics, articulation, rhythmic patterns and tempos also display a small degree of variation. Bryndorf appears to have little interest in these matters of variety, and listeners who do treasure variety will surely be skeptical.

As for specific performances, the only one where I feel Bryndorf is unsuccessful is the Ciacona in E minor. Here, she totally abandons her strengths of majesty and determination, only giving us a subdued reading that is glum and ultimately boring. Since the work would easily accommodate Bryndorf’s usual style, I find her decision-making inexplicable.

Potentially Controversial Considerations – The only controversial area concerns the Chorales. Being based on religious text, most artists convey a rather pious approach. In contrast, Bryndorf eschews this path, taking the majestic route with abundant vitality for the subject matter. As an example, she is absolutely festive and unique in the Chorale BuvWV 199. I think it is fair to say that Bryndorf celebrates instead of bowing to God. I greatly enjoy her approach, but some listeners will feel spiritually undernourished.

In conclusion, the Bryndorf disc will not appeal to all tastes. Specifically, I do not recommend the recording to those who insist on a high level of variety or humble veneration for God. All others should find much to enjoy, particularly those like myself who find Buxtehude’s most rewarding musical features to be his exuberance, sharpness of phrasing, and ceremonial elements. Bine Bryndorf takes a clear stand on this music, and I expect that future volumes will reveal a similar performance style. Volume 2 is in my possession, so you can expect a review of this 2nd installment in the near future.

Don Satz

see also review by Gary Higginson



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Hallé
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Nimbus
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