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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Complete Organ Works
Harald Vogel (organ)
rec. 1986-1993. DDD. Details at end of review
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 314 1438-2 [7 CDs: 69:38 + 60:42 + 61:22 + 68:45 + 77:10 + 70:52 + 76:15]



With 2007 the 300th anniversary of Buxtehude’s death well under way, we can expect a number of celebratory concerts and recorded releases. This new box, collecting the seven volume complete organ works played by Harald Vogel - and already released on single discs on the MDG label - will be something of a must-have for organ fans and Buxtehude scholars alike.
 
There are a number of complete sets of this repertoire either completed or nearing completion. Naxos’s more recent cycle is a bit of a mixed bag, with a number of different organists playing these works on modern instruments both in Europe and the U.S. Naxos will always present a useful budget choice, but with one or two rather colourless organs and some fairly wilful quirkiness among the musicians involved I certainly wouldn’t count it as a race winner against Harald Vogel. The DaCapo label has Bine Bryndorf playing Buxtehude on historical instruments, and would certainly be worth considering. I don’t have it to hand for comparison, but these discs have been well received elsewhere. There is also a complete set by Olivier Vernet on Ligia Digital which again I only know by reputation. I came across a volume of another complete set from the early 1990s on the Danish ‘Paula’ label with an organist called Ulrich Spang-Hanssen. Clearly there is more out there than one might realise, but rounding them all up for a comprehensive survey might be quite a task.
 
MDG have to be complimented on the presentation of this new box. The package contains not only a highly informative and scholarly description of the music, the instruments used and the tuning issues involved, but also has a separate book with the complete specifications of each organ with all of the registrations available and some nice photos of each instrument as well. The specifications are all in German, but anyone with a few ounces, sorry, grammes of organ knowledge will not find this a barrier, and players will be keen to see exactly which registrations were used for each work on these recordings. The extensive notes are by Harald Vogel, a performer and specialist in historical performance practice in North German organ playing who will need no introduction to organ buffs.
 
An important aspect of this performance tradition is tuning. Vogel makes the point that Buxtehude’s work falls within the period in which mean-tone and well-tempered systems existed side by side. The earlier mean-tone tuning system was often being modified in this period in order to broaden the possibilities within certain keys and harmonies, and using it is indeed a complex art which creates its own problems to this day. The assumption, based on evidence found during research in the 1970s, is that Buxtehude began working with well-tempered tuning from 1683. Put simply, his works before this point can be performed with no problems on well-tempered instruments, but the reverse is not true.
 
Throughout the MDG set, care has been taken to use the most appropriate instrument for each works. The ‘Little Organ’ at St. James in Lübeck is used for some of the earlier pieces on Disc 1, and moves to St. Ludger in Norden for the four manuals needed for works such as ‘Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ’, complete with some charming birdsong and chime effects. CD 2 brings us to the smaller acoustic of St. Cosmas and Damien in Stade, whose wonderful 18th century glockenspiel makes ‘Ach Gott und Herr’ into something of a highlight. The highly expressive sounding instrument in the Georgeskirche in Weener serves to highlight Buxtehude’s virtuosity as a proponent of sophisticated counterpoint. 
 
The history of many of the instruments on these discs makes for fascinating reading, and it is a wonder that some of them have survived at all, many having been mauled about most inconsiderately in the last hundred years or so. The Baroque pipes at the front of such organs were traditionally made with tin, and became mercilessly ‘recycled’ for the war effort during WWI. Careful restoration has for the most part brought about as near an ideal sound as one might imagine for today’s Buxtehude, and I’m sure he would have appreciated the value of modern electric wind pumps. Where new ranks of pipes exist alongside the old, Vogel has kept to the early registrations in order to maintain authenticity. There are one or two wheezy tubes on a few of the instruments, but the quality is invariably very high. One of the most significant organ builders, Arp Schnitger, is a name with which Buxtehude would have been extremely familiar. By the time you have reached halfway through this set you too will be well acquainted with the elegantly rounded and well balanced sound in these instruments.
 
The chamber-music characteristics of the Schnitger organ in Grasberg on CD 3 are coupled with two of Buxtehude’s chaconnes, and have effective solo registers for chorale-based repertoire. After the church acoustic the dry Herrenhaus in Damp actually makes for a welcome change. The instrument is a rare example of the earlier mean-tone organs, and its existence in a such a secular space is unique. CD 4 brings us into the grand environments of Noordbroek and Groningen, and the music here more often represents the forward-looking Buxtehude, favouring ‘remote’ keys and, as in the Prelude BuxWV 146 displaying some remarkable harmonic invention. I suspect this disc will see more domestic air time than many of the others if there is any honesty among Buxtehude fans.  
 
CD 5 represents instruments not from the Schnitger workshop. Having been restored in recent years, some of them appear in these recordings for the first time. Schnitger held a monopoly on organ building in Northern Germany during his lifetime, and so it was exceptional that independent builders such as Grotian, Herbst and Gercke were able to maintain their own workshops. Other makers such as Hantelmann set up shop after serving an apprenticeship, creating instruments modelled on those of their master, the great Schnitger. The variety in sound and possibilities is highlighted in reprises of works such as BuxWV 146, here transposed into G minor, and showing how the differences in tuning can transform the nature of the music. CD 6 brings us into the Danish sound world created by organ builders imported from all over Europe. Buxtehude’s formative years in Denmark would very much have been influenced by the sound of instruments such as the Roskilde Cathedral organ, and Buxtehude served as organist at both Helsingør and Torrlösa. The final disc is exclusively recorded on the Hamburg Jacobikirche organ. Pictured on the box and booklet covers, the completion of this magnificent instrument’s restoration in 1993 represented a significant milestone in organ history. The programme on CD 7 contains Buxtehude’s most extensive chorale settings, ‘Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein’ and the Te Deum. The other preludes were chosen as being designed with the 32’ stop in mind, and with a total of over 100 stop combinations on four manuals and pedals this represents the state of the art for organ sound in Buxtehude’s time.
 
Harald Vogel is an authoritative proponent and guide through all aspects of this music, and the quality of his playing, and of the recordings and choice of instruments can hardly be faulted. Already recognised as interpretations and recordings without equal, certainly in a complete edition, this set has to be considered the current Buxtehude standard bearer.
 
Dominy Clements      
 

 
CD 1
Stellwagen organ in St. Jacobi, Lübeck
Präludium in C, BuxWV 138
Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 199
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV 212 + 213
Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 192
Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BuxWV 185
Präludium in e, BuxWV 142
Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BuxWV 178
Schnitger organ in St. Ludgeri, Norden
Präludium in d, BuxWV 143
Vater unser im Himmelreich, BuxWV 219
Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ, BuxWV 188
Puer natus in Bethlehem, BuxWV 217
Passacaglia in d, BuxWV 161
Wär Gott nicht mit uns in dieser Zeit, BuxWV 222
Toccata in F, BuxWV 157
 
CD 2
Hus/Schnitger organ in St. Cosmae, Stade
Präludium, Fuge und Ciacona in C, BuxWV 137
Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BuxWV 207
Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam, BuxWV 180
Toccata in G manualiter, BuxWV 164
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BuxWV 184
Ach Gott und Herr, BuxWV 177
Schnitger organ in the Georgskirche, Weener
Präludium in g, BuxWV 150
Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 201
Canzonetta in G, BuxWV 172
Präludium in C, BuxWV 136
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV 214 + 215
Canzonetta in e, BuxWV 169
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl, BuxWV 187
Präludium in D, BuxWV 139
 
CD3
Schnitger organ in Grasberg
Toccata in F, BuxWV 156
Ciacona in c, BuxWV 159
Canzonetta in G, BuxWV 171
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich, BuxWV 202
Ich dank dir, lieber Herre, BuxWV 194
Präludium in F, BuxWV 145
Ciacona in e, BuxWV 160
Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl, BuxWV 193
Mit Fried und Freud fahr ich dahin, BuxWV 76
Fuga in C, BuxWV 174
Wiese organ in the Herrenhaus, Damp
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, BuxWV 186
Magnificat IX. Toni, BuxWV 205
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, BuxWV 198
Präludium in F, BuxWV 144
 
CD 4
Schnitger organs in Noordbroek
Praeludium in g, BuxWV 149 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BuxWV 223
Canzonetta in C, BuxWV 167
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BuxWV 220 + 221
Mensch, willst du leben seliglich, BuxWV 206
Toccata in d, BuxWV 155
In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 187
Schnitger organ in the Aa-Kerk in Groningen
Praeludium in fis, BuxWV 146
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 189
Canzona in g, BuxWV 173
Praeludium in g, BuxWV 141
Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 192
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist, BuxWV 209
Magnificat Primi Toni, BuxWV 203
 
CD 5
Grotrian organ in Pilsum
Praeludium in a, BuxWV 152
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, BuxWV 183
Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 224
Canzona in G, BuxWV 170
Praeludium in C, BuxWV 147
Richborn organ in Buttforde
Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 191
Courant simble, BuxWV 245
Krüger/Hus organ in Langwarden
Praeludium in g, BuxWV 146
Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BuxWV 182
Aria in C, BuxWV 246
Praeludium in C, BuxWV 151
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211
Praeludium in C, BuxWV 141
Hantelmann organ in Groß Eichsen
Fuga in C, BuxWV 175
Canzona in d, BuxWV 168
 
CD 6
Rottenstein-Pock/Müllisch/Botz organ in the Cathedral of Roskilde
Praeambulum in a, BuxWV 158
Magnificat Primi Toni, BuxWV 204
Aria in a, BuxWV 249
Ich dank dir schon durch deinen Sohn, BuxWV 195
Komm heilger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 200
Praeludium in G manualiter, BuxWV 162
Aria ”La Capricciosa”, BuxWV 250
Praeludium in A, BuxWV 151
Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, BuxWV 208
Praeludium in e, BuxWV 143
Lorentz/Fritsche organ in Torrlösa
Fuga in G, BuxWV 175
Sct. Mariae-Kirke in Helsingør
Canzonetta in a, BuxWV 225
Auf meinen lieben Gott, BuxWV 179
Praeludium in B, BuxWV 154
Fuga in B, BuxWV 176
 
CD 7
Schnitger organ in St. Jacobi Hamburg
Praeludium in g, BuxWV 148
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein, BuxWV 210
Canzona in C, BuxWV 166
Praeludium in D, BuxWV 139
Danket dem Herrn, denn er ist sehr fereundlich, BuxWV 181
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 198
Praeludium in d, BuxWV 140
Gott der Vater wohn uns bei, BuxWV 190
Te deum, BuxWV 218
Praeludium in a, BuxWV 153

 

 

 


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