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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Vocal Works Volume 2
Benedicam Dominum, BuxWV 113 [12.11]
Befield dem Engel, das ser komm, BuxWV 10 [6.07]
In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 52 [6.49]
Jubilate Domino omis terra, BuxWV 64 [8.16]
Ich suchte des Nachts in meinem Bette, BuxWV 50 [14.21]
Du Friedn-Fürst, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 20 [6.14]
Divertisson nous aujourd’hui, BuxWV [1.25]
Magnificat, BuxWV Anh. 1 [7.24]
Wie fird erneuet, wie wird erfreuet, BuxWV 110 [11.47]
Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun, BuxWV 51 [10.26]
Afferte Domino gloriam honorem, BuxWV 2 [5.02]
O fröhliche Stuneden, o herrlicher Tag, BuxWV 120 [4.58]
Drei schöne Dinge sind, BuxWV 19 [10.05]
Missa Brevis, BuxWV 114 [7.54]
Liebster, meine Seele saget, BuxWV 70 [4.02]
Canon duplex per augmentationem, BuxWV 123 [1.22]
Cantate Domino canticum novum, BuxWV 12 [7.35]
Nun lat oss Gud, var Herre, BuxWV 81 [5.31]
Herren var Gud, BuxWV 40 [4.42]
Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 43 [14.48]
Bettina Pahn (soprano)
Johannette Zomer (soprano)
Bogna Barosz (alto)
Patrick van Goethem (alto)
Daniel Taylor (alto)
Andreas Karasiak (tenor)
Jorg Durmuller (tenor)
Donald Bentvelsen (bass)
Klaus Mertens (bass)
Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
rec. March 2006, December 2006, January 2007, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72244 [74.40 + 76.32]

For their first volume of choral music in Challenge Classics’ Buxtehude Opera Ominium [review], Ton Koopman chose the only surviving work from the famous Abendmusiken, the Sunday evening sacred concerts which he put on in his church in Lübeck.

This second volume of choral music covers Buxtehude’s cantatas, psalm concertos, chorale concertos and liturgical pieces. But the spectre of the Abendmusiken is not far away and Koopman speculates that some of the larger-scale cantatas, such as ‘Wie wird erneuet, wie wird erfreuet’, ‘ Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn’, ‘Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun’ and ‘Benedicam Dominum’ formed part of the Abendmusiken. Whether or not they were written for these evening musical concerts, they are pretty impressive, written for a large audience.

‘Benedicam Dominum’ is scored for multiple choirs of instruments and voices. It is substantial in length, lasting some twelve minutes. The six galleries in St. Mary’s Church, Lübeck facilitated poly-choral performance and this work seems designed to take full advantage of them. ‘Wie wird erneuet’ is scored for six-part choir and instruments; with its trumpets and sackbuts it is another wonderfully festive piece.

The multi-part setting of an Easter Hymn by Kaspar Stolzenhagen, ‘Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn’ is scored for a substantial performing ensemble of five-part choir, trumpets and strings. It includes an aria by an unknown author but is attributed to Buxtehude in an 18th century manuscript.

‘Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun’ is an Advent piece which uses a polychoral structure featuring five-part choir, cornets and sackbuts, trumpets and dulcian, strings and continuo. It has an expansive layout featuring seven movements which mix concertos, chorales and an aria.

Some of the other longer works on the disc are less extravagantly scored, but use the same combination of concerto with aria and chorale, to form substantial multi-movement works; a form which was popular in Lutheran church music in the 17th century. ‘Drei schöne Dinge sind’ is scored for just two voices (soprano and bass), two violins and continuo. Buxtehude still manages a wonderfully imaginative structure of instrumental sonatina, concerto on Old Testament text, reflective strophic aria and then repeat of the concerto.

Of course not everything on the disc is big, and that is one of its joys. Koopman mixes these expansively scored pieces with others which are far smaller in scale but still full of the most wonderful felicities.

‘Ich suchte des Nachts in meinem Bette’ uses just tenor and bass voices with violins, oboes and continuo but the scoring is very varied. The six movement structure again mixes concertos and arias and is based on verses from The Song of Songs. But one of the arias manages to include instrumental impressions of the drunken city piper on the watch, which must have caused much amusement at the court; this could hardly be a liturgical piece despite its text.

Also written for the Court were ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ and ‘Jubilate Domino’. ‘In Dulci Jubilo’ is an attractive setting of the familiar tune for an ensemble of three voices (SSB), violins and continuo. ‘Jubilate Domino’ is a lightly-scored chamber piece, written for just alto voice, viola da gamba and continuo. The alto part is sung by counter-tenor Daniel Taylor, making a welcome single appearance on the disc.

The disc also includes two smaller pieces with Swedish links, a pair of settings of Swedish chorales (‘Herren var Gud’ and ‘Nu lat oss Gud, var Herra’) which were probably written for Buxtehude’s friend Gustav Düben, the Stockholm court Kapellmeister. This sort of connection reminds us that Lübeck, with its links to the Baltic, had many close connections around the Baltic Sea; something that was inevitable in days when sea travel could be faster and more efficient than travel over land.

Much of our knowledge of Buxtehude’s work arises from the Swedish connection as Düben’s manuscripts ended up in Uppsala and are one of the principal sources for Buxtehude’s music. Two of the pieces from this collection, the Magnificat and the Missa Brevis are attributed to Buxtehude even though scholars regard them as being doubtful; Buxtehude had little need to write such pieces for the Lübeck evening services. Still, they are without any parallels in the surviving Buxtehude canon so it is difficult to be dogmatic. The Missa Brevis (a setting of just the Kyrie and Gloria, according to Lutheran tradition) is written for five-part choir and uses fine learned counterpoint. By contrast the Magnificat is in the more modern manner with an instrumental ensemble to accompany the choir.

Koopman has taken the opportunity of the rather disparate nature of this set to include two pieces which Buxtehude wrote for friendship albums of close acquaintances. Both are musical puzzles in the form of canons. ‘Divertisson nous aujourd’hui’ is a three-part canon written in the album of Meno Hanneken, a distinguished theologian and superintendent of Lübeck churches. The other, ‘Canon duplex per augmentationem’ is a double canon, without text and was dedicated to Johan Valentin Meder, a singer who had performed with Buxtehude.

Koopman has assembled a highly attractive pair of discs from Buxtehude’s occasional works. Whilst it is alarming quite how much of his music is lost and how much information we are lacking about the surviving pieces. If you simply relax and listen then there is much to enjoy on this disc.

There is a danger, perhaps, for those of us who are familiar with a small part of Buxtehude’s output, to ascribe to him the character of a pedantic inhabitant of the organ loft. These pieces show that this is far from the truth, these pieces are lively and imaginative and extremely varied.

Koopman and his Amsterdam forces give them exemplary performances. Koopman varies his forces according to the needs of the piece, so that the smaller-scale performances are given by appropriately sized forces. The Amsterdam Baroque Choir is only used in five of the tracks, all the rest use soloists and an ensemble of soloists in the correct Lutheran manner.

Just occasionally one of the soprano soloists displays a tendency to hardness of tone in her upper register. But really there is little to fault on these discs.

All it remains to say is that everyone should have a copy of this lively and inspiring disc on their library shelves.

Robert Hugill



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