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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
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 - Pasi)
rec. St Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, 18-20 September 2006. DDD
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 effectively.
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.
Brian Wilson


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