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alternatively Crotchet

Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
Complete Works for Organ - Volume 6

Præludium in F, BuxWV145 [7:02]
Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BuxWV207 [8:04]
Fuga in B, BuxWV176 [4:23]
Toccata in G, BuxWV165 [5:44]
Canzona in C, BuxWV166 [4:46]
Fuga in G, BuxWV175 [3:36]
Canzona in G, BuxWV170 [3:41]
Fuga in C, BuxWV174 [3:00]
Præludium in e minor, BuxWV143 [5:51]
Canzonetta in e minor, BuxWV169 [2:56]
Funeral Music for Johannes Buxtehude, BuxWV176: Contrapunctus I – Evolutio – Contrapunctus II – Evolutio – Klaglied (1647) [8:06]
Præludium in E, BuxWV141 [6:47]
Bine Bryndorf (Stellwagen and Positive Organs, St Jakobi, Lübeck)
Rec in St Jakobi, Lübeck, 20th-21st June, 2007. ddd
Booklet with notes in English, German and Danish
Dacapo 6.220530 [70:16]

This recording completes Bine Bryndorf’s series of Buxtehude’s organ music for Dacapo, part of the Naxos stable’s considerable contribution to the tercentenary year.  Alongside these Dacapo Bryndorf recordings on historic North German and Scandinavian organs, a parallel series has been in progress on Naxos on modern instruments, Volume 6 of which I recently reviewed.  The Naxos series has been shared amongst several organists, though the latest volumes have all been played by Julia Brown, latterly on the remarkable Pasi organ of Omaha Cathedral.  Concurrent with this review is one of Volume 7 of the Naxos series, also featuring Julia Brown on the Pasi organ (see review). 
Whereas the Dacapo series is complete on six CDs, the Naxos has already run to seven volumes and the seventh is not stated to be the final one.  Both series have featured well-filled discs, with typically 70+ minutes.  One reason for the difference may lie in the fact that the Naxos series contains some works equally suited to harpsichord performance: the courant zimble on Volume 7, for example, has been recorded by other performers on the harpsichord, including by Mortensen on Dacapo’s 3-CD set of Buxtehude’s harpsichord music.
Coincidentally, four of the items on Naxos Vol.6 are also included on the present recording.  In all three works Bryndorf gains over Brown with nimbler playing.  Though timings are far from the be-all and end-all, the differences are noticeable: in BuxWV166, Brown takes 6:00 against Bryndorf’s 4:46, in BuxWV 145, 7:53 against 7:02, in BuxWV162 6:47 against 5:56  and in BuxWV165 7:04 against 5:44.  I liked Brown’s recording and I am not now going to retract what I said then – but I like Bryndorf better.
The same is true of the one work in common between this sixth Dacapo CD and CD7 of the Naxos set, the Canzona in G, BuxWV170, where Bryndorf takes 3:41 against Brown’s 4:28.   I listened first to Brown’s version of this work, 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’.
These timings 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’.
In general, where Bryndorf emphasises the lightness and dance-like qualities of Buxtehude’s music, Brown points the way to Bach.  Many will prefer Brown’s approach and, of course, there is room for both.
Though Bryndorf’s organ may at first glance appear more authentic than Brown’s, the issue is somewhat complex: the older instrument has been much changed whereas the newer instrument has been built with early music in mind.  Part of the Hauptwerk of the main Stellwagen organ at Lübeck dates in part as far back as 1467-1515; its principal build by Friedrich Stellwagen in 1636-7 would be ideal for the music of Buxtehude were it not for the many 18th, 19th and 20th-century restorations, culminating in a major restoration in 1977-8 and cleaning and retuning in 2006.  Successive restorations have left the pitch too high, a’=490Hz instead of the original pitch of around 465 Hz, as the notes in the booklet admit.  This instrument is tuned to modified Werkmeister III, an 18th-Century precursor of modern equal temperament.  All but tracks 5-8 are played on this main instrument.
Nothing survives of the Lübeck positive organ except the casing.  The present instrument was newly built in 2003, albeit based on another organ by the same builder at Stokloster, Sweden.  The pitch of this instrument, 470 Hz, is much closer to the norm of Buxtehude’s time.  It is tuned in meantone with compromise d-sharp/e-flat.  Tracks 5-8 are played on this instrument.
The Omaha organ, on the other hand, is an instrument for all seasons.  The specification in the Naxos booklet indicates that most of the stops on the Great Organ and Pedals, plus all those on the Positive Organ, are capable of being played in both well-tempered tuning and ¼ comma mean-tone, thus making it suitable for music of Buxtehude’s time and earlier.
Reviews of earlier volumes in this Dacapo series have been generally very positive.  Gary Higginson found Volume 1 good enough to encourage him to continue to listen to the rest of the series, though he wondered even then (July 2004) whether we needed yet another complete series of Buxtehude organ music.  Don Satz was also generally complimentary, though with reservations about Bryndorf’s comparative lack of reverence in the Chorales.  Chris Bragg felt much the same in respect of Volume 2, finding the ornamentation too fast and nervous and lacking in tranquility.  He made much the same point concerning Volume 3 and Volume 5, which he recommended, though preferring a generally weightier approach.
These reservations can be put to the test on track 2, Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BuxWV207.  It just so happens that Radio 3’s Early Music Programme recently broadcast a recording of a concert from the 2007 Stockholm Early Music Festival in which Gøteborg Baroque performed the choral original of this very piece, as measured, affective and reverent a performance as one might wish, though suitably begeistert where appropriate.  There is, of course, a great deal of difference between a choral original and a set of organ variations: the latter is expected to be freer and more showy, the very essence of Stylus Phantasticus, so it is only to be expected that the organ realisation will sound different – as, indeed, proves to be the case.  Bryndorf’s performance is nimble and entertaining.  I fully admit DS’s and CB’s reservations, namely that she emphasises the liveliness and the grandeur of such music at the expense of the veneration, but it did not spoil my enjoyment of her performance of this piece.
Track 12, the Funeral Music for Buxtehude’s father, offers a potentially more testing case. Here the Lutheran chorale Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin – in peace and joy I depart – is used as the starting point for a contrapuntal exercise.  Bryndorf brings out the academic nature and essential dignity of the music in her playing but never loses sight of the affective nature of the work, especially in the closing Klaglied or song of lamentation, where Buxtehude sets a poem of his own.  The balance between the Fried und Freud on the one hand and the Klage on the other is well maintained.
The Præludium in E, BuxWV141, which follows on the final track rather shatters the mood, though this work is not without its own gravity, especially in the opening prelude section, but also in the ensuing fugue, an effect which Bryndorf emphasises with use of 16’ pedal tone where appropriate.  She makes what might have seemed an irrelevance after the Funeral Music into a fitting conclusion to the recording.
The ambience is just right, the recording is excellent, never interfering with enjoyment of the music, and the informative booklet gives full details of the specifications of both Lübeck organs and of the registration employed for each individual piece.  The short musical examples in the booklet are very welcome.
Overall I am very happy to recommend this recording, siding more with Don Satz’s high commendation of Volume 2 than with his earlier reservations.
I concluded my review of Volume 7 of the Naxos series by predicting a very close contest between Julia Brown and Bine Bryndorf, with the latter winning narrowly – and so it transpires.  This Dacapo CD costs more than twice as much as the Naxos but is worth the extra.  You could buy both and have only one short item of overlap between the two.
Brian Wilson


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