I know what you're
thinking: 'Not another complete recording
of Buxtehude's organ works!'
Life is a little difficult
at present with the Naxos series slowly
grinding on and a set of Buxtehude on
Dabringhaus und Grimm. Yet this new
disc may well be worth pursuing because
this set, on Denmark's own house recording
label, is not only apt, as Buxtehude
was in fact Danish by birth and early
training but also different in approach
to other sets.
Let's look more carefully.
First, unlike the Naxos
recordings, the planning and ordering
of the music by Da Capo makes lengthier
listening possible. Although I would
not recommend that all sixty-five minutes
are heard without a stop there remains
much contrast here to keep any listener
Secondly, Da Capo's
new style presentation with cardboard
case and booklet insert is attractive
especially when the booklet contains,
helpfully, the melodies of ten of the
chorales used by Buxtehude and heard
on the CD. It is especially useful in
the case of, for example, 'Nun Komm,
der Heiden Heiland' where the elaborations
around the melody are so complex that
the original is lost almost completely.
Other elaborations, like the familiar
'In dulci jubilo' are simpler.
The detailed and very
helpful notes are by Karela Snyder.
They give an excellent, potted life-history
of the composer and then go through
the music in detail without being too
technical. One of the first comments
about Buxtehude's organ works is that
they "can be divided into those works
that require the use of the pedal and
those that do not". Bearing this in
mind the CD has been planned, as I said,
thoughtfully and, if this makes sense,
The first work is probably
Buxtehude's best known. This is his
Praeludium in G minor BuxWV 149. It
is an impressive piece in three sections,
almost a free fantasy, with a chromatic
fugal subject. This is one of several
pieces that require (limited) use of
the pedal. All bear the title Ciconi
(Chaconne) or Ostinato. Then comes a
sequence of chorale preludes based on
well-known melodies also used by Bach.
The melodies are given in the booklet.
Another group of Ostinato-type
works comes next. There is a Ciacona,
whose antecedents lie in the Chaconne
form, which is more like a repeated
harmonic pattern. Then comes a Passacaglia
with a repeated bass pattern. There
follows another Ciacona and further
Praeludium. There are five more Chorale
preludes of differing elaboration. The
disc ends with another, fine Praeludium.
Buxtehude is closely
associated with Elsinore. There is a
photograph of the organ in the booklet.
The instrument was built by Johan Lorentz
c.1640. This gentleman was the father
of the Johann Lorenz who was a teacher
of Buxtehude in the 1650s. Buxtehude
later became organist of St. Mary's.
Various conversions and alterations
have been made right up to 1997. The
instrument’s compass and couplers are
clearly given and it has a Tremulant
for the whole organ. Other details are
given including the specification. Bine
Bryndorf has given us the registration
for each of the eighteen pieces played.
He also tells us at what point the registration
changes and how. I find this a most
helpful and useful development. Bryndorf
is a very fine, indeed faultless, player
who does not go in for unnecessary ornamentation
but who is stylistically reliable and
The title of the CD
'Stylus Phantastiscus' refers to an
extremely free style of writing and
also to a more structured writing which
has to be rather virtuoso and elaborate.
This can be heard often at the start
of the Prealudiums (reminiscent of Froberger)
and in some of the polyphonic writing
which is heard over the more stolid
Little bells are struck
in some tracks as in 'Gelobet seist
du, Jesu Christ' (track 3) and towards
the end of the final Praeludium (bar
99 we are told). You might feel this
is some distant clock chime which has
accidentally appeared on the disc as
its appearance and timing seem quite
arbitrary. Although the bells have their
own rhythm they are unrelated to the
music. However, reading the registration
it seems that the source of the sound
is a ‘Zimbelstern’. Does that mean 'Star-Cymbals'?
I would be happy to be enlightened further.
To round up. This is
a useful and sound start to the series,
which has, as I write, just coughed
up volume 2. Although possibly for Buxtehude
specialists, it contains some fine and
interesting music which represents the
composer in a rounded and complete way.
It would surely encourage me to listen
further and to follow Buxtehude on his
journey around Denmark and the organs
for which he composed.