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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger



Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637 - 1707)
Complete Chamber Music, Volume 1
Sonate (7) Opus 1, BuxWV 252-258 (1694) [57.32]
John Holloway, v.; Jaap ter Linden, vla. da gamba; Lars Ulrik Mortensen, harpsichord.
Recorded in Kastelkirken, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1 July 1994
Notes in English and Deutsch.
Previously released on daCapo in 1994.
NAXOS 8.557248 [57.32]


Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637 - 1707)
Harpsichord Works

Toccata in G, BuxWV 165 [4.58]
"La Capricciosa" variations, BuxWV 250 [17.41]
Chorale Partita "Auf meinen lieber Gott" BuxWV 179 [5.36]
Preludium in G, BuxWV 162 [5.26]
Air with two variations, BuxWV 249 [6.44]
Suite in g, BuxWV 241 [5.17]
Canzonetta in G, BuxWV 272 [2.06]
Glen Wilson (harpsichord by Schevikhoven after Ruckers 1626)
Recorded at Schüttbau, Rügheim, Germany, July 2003
Notes in English and Deutsch.
NAXOS 8.557413 [55.19]



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It is amazing how the dead hand of Queen Victoria still rests heavily on our shoulders. Perhaps the good Queen was herself not so much to blame but from wherever it came, our idea of musicians has until recently been cast in the Imitatio Christi mode. Great composers must therefore of necessity come from humble beginnings, be surrounded by superficial and unworthy competitors who achieve greater material success, and must be misunderstood by their contemporaries, dying miserably. If the facts donít fit the legend, then it is the facts that must fall.

In the case of Bach, this meant that Buxtehude and Telemann could not possibly be great composers, for the one was merely the predecessor, the vessel; and the other the poncy showman, the Devilís tool. It was not difficult to find music by these men which could be used to support these absurd ideas. Fortunately the light is beginning to dawn. My friend Paul Jordan, a genius at planning as well as playing great programs of organ music, when we discovered that his recording of Bachís Orgelbüchlein was too long for a single CD, filled out the second CD 50% with Buxtehude and the result is not only magnificent but amazing, for the Buxtehude stands up solidly under this direct comparison with some of Bachís greatest music. Itís largely in how it is played; if you play great music as great music it is received that way; if you play great music as though it were second rate, thatís how it usually sounds. So, here we have Buxtehude played as though it were great music, and thatís just how it comes off.

Further encouragement of the Buxtehude restoration included the publication of the Buxtehude Werke Verzeichnis by Georg Karstadt in 1974, and of a good biography in English, Dietrich Buxtehude, Organist in Lübeck by Kerala J. Snyder, 1987.

Although I have his complete organ works, I never knew Buxtehude even wrote this much harpsichord music.

Not surprisingly, these sonatas sound about halfway between Biber and Purcell in style, so if you like either of these composers you should like these works right off. All the movements have Italian tempo indications. Of the seven, three are in the frequently encountered slow-fast-slow-fast format, one is in slow-fast-slow, one in fast-slow-fast-slow, and two are in fast-slow-fast-slow-fast-slow-fast format. Like Buxtehudeís organ music the movements are made up of shorter episodes of contrasting colour and tempo, rather like Purcell, instead of the Baroque ideal of a movement in one tempo and form throughout. The works also have much of Purcellís humour and sprightliness and also Purcellís originality and ability to surprise and delight. Performances are excellent, virtuosic, rich and sympathetic, and the recording is close.

Wilsonís harpsichord is a beautiful sounding instrument miked very close but with no distracting mechanical noises. Temperament is unequal, but very skilfully applied. BuxWV 250 is described in the notes as "Buxtehudeís Goldberg Variations", being an aria, Bergamasca, and a catalogue of 32 variation styles, most of them very French, although much is owed to Sweelinck. Variation twelve or thereabouts is remarkably chromatic, simple in its structure, and exploratory in its harmonies, while other variations a dazzling virtuoso displays. Variation 20 or thereabouts is startlingly similar to Bachís WTK I Prelude #1. Variation 27 is thought to satirise unskilled ornamentation technique and graceless phrasing. Variation 29 could be a hornpipe. BuxWV 179 is a chorale partita on a German hymn tune, but consists of French dance movements! These disks demolish the commonly held image of Buxtehude as stuffy, crude, graceless and excessively pious. May they both be the first of long series of recordings of secular keyboard and concerted music.

Beautiful, exciting music, a revealing testament to a deeply underestimated composer

[Saying BWV ("Bee-doub-el-you-vee") is manageable, BuxWV (Books-te-hoo-de-doub-el-you-vee) is not, so I say "bux-wuv" or "Bux-wux."]

Paul Shoemaker

 



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