Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) Opera Omnia X - Organ Works 5
CD 1 Praeludium in E, BuxWV 142 [6:55] Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist, BuxWV 209 [2:22] Te Deum laudamus, BuxWV 218 [11:46] Praeludium in C, BuxWV 136 [5:22] Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BuxWV 222 [2:14] Toccata in D, BuxWV 155 [6:42] Von Gott will nicht lassen BuxWV 221 [2:15] Praeludium in A, BuxWV 151 [4:30] Praeludium in A, BuxWV 152 [3:34] Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 191 [2:52] Praeambulum in A, BuxWV 158 [4:18] Magnificat Primi Toni, BuxWV 204 [3:04] Magnificat Noni Toni, BuxWV 205 [2:41] Praeludium in G, BuxWV 150 [6:55]
CD 2 Praeludium in A, BuxWV 153 [5:05] Ich dank dir, lieber Herre, BuxWV 194 [4:44] Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV 192 [2:24] Praeludium in E, BuxWV 143 [4:40] Mensch, willt du leben seliglich, BuxWV 206 [1:40] Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist, BuxWV 208 [2:00] Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697) Praeludium in E (The Larger) [7:33] Praeludium in E (The Smaller) [4:40] Nun komm der Heiden Heiland [9:01] Praeludium in G [6:47]
Ton Koopman (organ)
rec. April, 2008, St Wilhadi, Stade, Germany. DDD CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72249 [65:37
We are approaching the half way point of Ton Koopman's acclaimed
and highly satisfying series of probably about two dozen CD sets
containing all the extant music by the giant of North German
music before Bach, Dieterich Buxtehude.
Buxtehude was born about 50 years before Bach, in 1637; he
died at the age of 70, having spent the last almost 40 years
life at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, where he succeeded Franz
Tunder and married Tunder's daughter… something of a tradition
for Lübeck organists. It was in Lübeck that Bach
famously heard Buxtehude play in 1705, having walked almost
and absenting himself from his post at Arnstadt to do so.
But even were it not for the immense influence which Buxtehude
exercised on composers of his own and future generations, we
should have to listen with care and wonder to the beauty, profundity
and variety of his compositional genius as here exposed by keyboard
specialist and conductor, Ton Koopman, who is 65 this year. Even
Koopman seems a little surprised at the quality and significance
of the corpus of Buxtehude's keyboard works, the conclusion of
whose performance this excellent Challenge release (Opera
Omnia X, Organ works 5) represents. 'Astounding quality'
is how Koopman describes it. And indeed it is.
Because there is no Urtext, no autographs even, because
there is subdued but very real confusion about the provenances
of some manuscripts, because those that are extant are inconsistently
preserved and edited, and because editorial and presentational
styles have changed during the century and half over which existing
sources survive, the advantages of having a single performer
are legion. And when that performer is such a sympathetic, engaged,
enthusiastic and energetic specialist as Ton Koopman, we could
hardly wish for better.
As much is evident from the first note on this double CD. Koopman's
playing is full of vigour, elegance, clarity - and a diligent
sparkle. One is conscious of always listening to the music that
Buxtehude wrote, not Koopman's interpretation of it. Yet at the
same time the tempi and phrasing convey the impression that one
is in very good hands from our own century: this is necessarily
a modern account. Of course Buxtehude himself was such an accomplished
organist that such a response on Koopman's part over 400 years
later is not inappropriate. Buxtehude would surely have appreciated
Koopman's interpretative skills and applauded the extent to which
his playing exhibits his own spirit and enthusiasm.
Further, we know that Buxtehude's adherence to the stylus
phantasticus implies a good deal of (interpretative) freedom
for all performers of his work who have their hearts in it. So
Koopman's approach is a fitting one. The stylus phantasticus originated
in organ pieces (particularly toccatas and fantasias), as developed
by Merulo and Frescobaldi in Italy and the latter's German student,
Froberger. Rather like a classical fantasia, the stylus phantasticus is
based on an the improvisatory employment of brief and contrasting
motifs in free form. So the performer is paramount - as are his/her
sensitivity to the possibilities suggested by the composer's
Of almost equal importance is the instrument: the seventeenth
century was the organ's century par excellence. In the
case of the North German exponents, the large, complex, powerful,
the majestic Hanseatic organ was in many ways required for the
voluminous sound implied by the compositions of Buxtehude and
Add to this the fact that composers such as Bach and Buxtehude
were almost as comfortable overseeing the building and maintenance
of such instruments as they were playing and writing for them,
and the relationship becomes a special one: geographical area
determines the nature of the music because it determines the
nature of the instrument. Again, it needs a musician with experience
of such a relationship to reveal the depths of the composer's
thoughts. Koopman has such experience, though wears it lightly.
As the series progresses, once senses that Koopman is getting
more and more from it himself! To be sure, the way in which he
conveys to us the integration of North European organ styles
with those of the Italian (and even French) traditions is striking.
But Koopman's is also a very spontaneous way of doing this -
with an obvious delight on his part in the at times almost playful
expansiveness of Buxtehude's writing.
The CDs consist of music categorisable as both free and as chorale-based.
There are nine multi-section pedaliter preludes in the stylus
phantasticus, which need larger organs. BuxWV 142 [CD.1 tr.1],
143 [CD.2 tr.4], 150 [CD.1 tr.14] and 155 [CD.1 tr.6] are all
unusually substantial pieces with a thematic unity and melodic
experimentation that we haven't seen on the other CDs in this
series. We don't know the order of these compositions of Buxtehude's
- but it's tempting to think they come later because more mature.
The chorales fall into three categories: compact polyphonic settings
such as BuxWV 191 [CD.1 tr.10], 192 [CD.1 tr.3], 206 [CD.2 tr.5],
208 [CD.2 tr.6], 209 [CD.1 tr.2] and 222 [CD.1 tr.5]; elaborate,
adventurous and highly expressive fantasias: BuxWV 194 [CD.2.
tr.2] and 221 [CD.1 tr.7]; and Latin liturgical melodies: BuxWV
204 [CD.1 tr.12], 205 [CD.1 tr.13] and 218 [CD.1 tr.3]. With
the exception of the Bruhns pieces (see below), Koopman has interleaved
the various types of composition over the CDs' 20 tracks, rather
than grouped them by type. This means we are repeatedly challenged
to vary our response.
Koopman plays the Bielfeldt organ of 1736 in St Wilhadi, Stade,
in Germany: it's a splendid instrument which combines both gentleness,
mellowness and modesty with a brilliant penetration and command
of its immediate environment. Very well recorded on these CDs,
the degree of resonance, proximity and atmosphere are perfect
and well suited to Koopman's honest yet inspired style.
The booklet is up to Challenge's usual standards in terms of
information, biography, background (Christoph Wolff provides
the commentary on the works) and historical analysis - although
the headings for the German portion are misprinted as from Opera
Omnia IX etc.
Nicholas Bruhns (1665-1697) was arguably Buxtehude's most gifted
pupil; he too is known from CPE Bach's obituary of his father
to have influenced Johann Sebastian Bach. At the end of the second
CD we get Bruhns' entire known output for organ - three preludes
and a chorale. Different, though pleasingly rousing and inventive
- and a nice addition.
If you have (any of) the other nine CD sets in Challenge's Koopman
Buxtehude series, you'll want to add this without a second's
hesitation. If you haven't yet fallen under Koopman's joyous
and transparent spell, this is not only a good place to start,
but one likely to urge immediate investigation of the other volumes
- so compelling, durable and full of insight and deftly winnowed
enthusiasm is his playing.
Reviews of other releases in this series CC72241 Vocal works vol. 1 CC72244 Vocal
works vol. 2 CC72245 Harpsichord
works vol. 2
We are currently
offering in excess of 51,800 reviews
Founding Editor Rob Barnett Editor in Chief
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.