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Decca Phase 4
Organ Music - Volume 7
Præambulum in A minor, BuxWV158 [5:37]
Præludium in C major, BuxWV138 [5:03]
Fantasia: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV188 [10:13]
Canzona in G minor, BuxWV173 [2:31]
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV214 [3:59]
Canzonetta in C major, BuxWV167 [1:34]
Aria with three variations in a minor, BuxWV249 [6:39]
Ich dank dir schon durch deinen Sohn, BuxWV195 [6:13]
Courant zimble with eight variations, BuxW245 [10:18]
Præludium in F major, BuxWV144 [4:00]
Præludium in B flat major (fragment), BuxWV154 [1:44]
Canzona in G major, BuxWV170 [4:28]
Præludium in G minor, BuxWV163 [10:14]
Julia Brown (organ
rec. St Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, 18-20 September
NAXOS 8.570312 [72:33]
This is Volume 7 in Naxos’s
complete survey of Buxtehude’s organ music, begun as long ago
as 2001. Like Volumes 5 and 6, it is played by Julia Brown on
the remarkable Martin Pasi organ in Omaha Cathedral. I was generally
impressed with Volume
6, as I am again with this new recording. To save unnecessary
repetition, please follow the hyperlink to that earlier review.
Like Volume 5, the front
cover advertises a selection of Præludia, Chorale Fantasias
and Chorale Preludes, a goodly variety of pieces including two
sets of variations on dance tunes, one of them on a sarabande
and the other a set of eight variations on a courant zimble.
You may be as puzzled as me as to what a courant zimble is – and
Keith Anderson’s otherwise very fine notes don’t explain it,
other than to say that it is a courante, which is pretty obvious:
I already knew that a courante was a dance form. I think the
answer is that zimble is merely a capricious form of simple.
The use of a modern instrument
is no handicap when the organ in question is playable in both
well-tempered tuning and in ¼ comma meantone, making it ideal
for music both before and after the time of Bach. I very much
like the sound which this instrument makes and, as on Volume
6, the recording captures it very well. My colleague Chris Bragg
gave a detailed description of this remarkable organ and its
capabilities in his review
of Volume 5, a review which also contains hyperlinks to
the website of Martin Pasi, the organ’s creator, and to the
reviews of volumes 1-4 of this series. The booklet contains
a full specification of the organ.
One of the pieces on this
recording, the Canzona in G, BuxWV170, also features
on the sixth and final volume of Bine Bryndorf’s recording of
Buxtehude’s Complete Organ Works on Naxos’s sister label, Dacapo.
As with the works on that CD which overlap Brown’s Volume 6,
Bryndorf is noticeably faster – 3:41 against Brown’s 4:28. As
usual, timings tell only part of the story, but they are consistent
with my general feeling that Bryndorf is the more agile, the
lighter-fingered performer. Where Bryndorf emphasises the dance-like
elements in the music, Brown is more meditative and reminds
us more of Bach’s debt to Buxtehude. This should not be taken
to mean that Bryndorf skates over the music oblivious to its
deeper qualities or that Brown is slow and stodgy: both are
thoroughly convincing in their own terms. Neither player seems
to feel that Buxtehude’s famous Stylus Phantasticus – the
phrase prominently displayed on the front of the Dacapo CD – means
pulling the music about to make it artificially ‘exciting’.
I listened first to Brown’s
version of the Canzona in G, to judge it on its own terms,
before turning to Bryndorf’s account. I found Brown’s playing
and chosen registration light and airy, bringing out the lyrical
qualities of the piece so well that I found it hard to imagine
that any performance could do greater justice to these qualities.
If Bryndorf does, perhaps, find just that extra degree of magic
in the piece, there is not a great deal in it – and I actually
found myself preferring Brown’s registration in the opening
bars. With equally helpful ambience and equally good recordings,
in tennis terms I suppose the score is ‘deuce’.
In the rest of the music
the situation remains much as I described it in my earlier review.
There is plenty of variety in the programme, the registration
is well chosen throughout and the playing deft. The performance
and recording allow the music to speak for itself, with no unpleasant
surprises. On neither this nor the earlier volume did I find
any of the quirkiness to which my colleague Chris Bragg referred
in his otherwise favourable review
of Volume 5.
As on Volume 6, several
of the pieces are based on Lutheran chorales, the tunes of which
would have been familiar to Buxtehude’s original listeners in
a way which they are not to a modern audience. Where this happens
on the Bryndorf recording, the original words and tunes are
printed in the Dacapo booklet; it would have been helpful if
Naxos had done the same. I appreciate that Naxos CDs sell for
about a third of the price of the Dacapo, but a couple of music
examples would surely not have added much to the cost. Perhaps
they could be made available on the valuable Naxos website.
Perhaps, too, we might be given the registration details for
individual pieces, as we are on the Dacapo recording.
Track 5, Nun lob, mein
Seel, is based on the German Magnificat. Two other
pieces based on this tune were included in Volume 6. Since
this is different from the Latin plainchant setting with which
listeners may be more familiar, it would have been particularly
valuable to have had the tune printed in the booklet, especially
when Brown’s performance stresses the underlying theme so
Of the pieces recorded
here, the score of one only is available free online, track
2, the Præludium
BuxWV138. The Canzona
in G, BuxWV170, is also available but only in a transcription
for four brass instruments.
I referred to other ongoing
series of Buxtehude’s music in my review of Volume 6. Inexplicably,
I omitted reference to the Dacapo/Bryndorf, now complete in
six volumes. I am working on that final Dacapo volume concurrently
with this (see review). I scored Brown and Bryndorf at ‘deuce’ in
the case of BuxWV170, and that is likely to be my final sitting-on-the-fence
position – perhaps ‘advantage
Bryndorf’, to maintain the tennis metaphor – but watch this
space. If I may find myself ultimately awarding the prize to
Bryndorf, it will be a very close-run thing.
Bryndorf’s series comes
at more than twice the Naxos price, of course, which may finally
decide the issue. If you don’t mind duplicating some items and
missing out on others, you could mix and match the two sets;
the Naxos Volume 7 and the Dacapo Volume 6, for example, involve
one short duplication only.
Keith Anderson’s notes
inevitably duplicate some of the material from earlier volumes;
otherwise, they are excellent.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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