Buxtehude_21 - On The Bridge
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Präludium in G minor, BuxWV 149 [18:03]
George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759)
Oboe Sonata in C minor, HWV 366 [9:18]
Franz TUNDER (1614-1667)
An Wasserflüssen Babylon [8:24]
Franz DANKSAGMÜLLER (b.1969)/Bernd RUFF (b.1964)
Dow Jones. Danza Infernale [7:03]
bux in g reloaded [5:44]
Lullaby for Anna Margaretha [2:18]
BTB-BuxToccataBach [11:47]
Bernd Ruf (soprano saxophone)
Franz Danksagmüller (live electronics and organ)
rec. Large organ, St. Jakobi, Lübeck, no date given
gpARTS 201 [63:20]

This is a fascinating release in the Classical Crossover category, featuring two musicians of international acclaim. Bernd Ruf is a conductor, clarinettist and saxophonist whose aim is to build bridges between musical genres, for which he received a Grammy nomination in 2001. Franz Danksagmüller is not only a fine organist, but channels some of his creative energy into live electronic performances. His work includes amalgamating current composition techniques with historical instruments. He has a particular interest in the human voice. The two musicians have come together to present this highly imaginative release, putting a modern-day take on Baroque music.

The Buxtehude Präludium in G minor is in four movements. The work opens with a chord which seems to germinate from nothing, gradually building to a devastating climax. I’m amazed how well the saxophone blends with the powerful sonorities of the Lübeck organ. I found myself at a loss to know which instrument was playing at certain points. The electronic devices also make their sonic contributions, which add to the colour, power and allure. In the third movement, marked Allegro, the eloquent peroration of the saxophone over the organ’s buoyant accompaniment is a delight, with Ruf’s improvisatory skills natural, spontaneous and unforced.

This is followed up by a jazzy, improvised view of Handel’s Oboe Sonata in C minor. After a serene and ardently rendered Largo, the musicians indulge in a lively Allegro. The contrapuntal lines are clearly defined. Ruf’s Bourrée anglaise, which ends the sonata, is wide-eyed and whimsical. The experience of traversing a desolate landscape is evoked at the beginning of Franz Tunder’s An Wasserflüssen Babylon. A chorale theme played on the organ emerges, against which a lonely voice utters its plaintive chant against the backdrop of a forsaken wilderness.

The remaining four items are the work of the two instrumentalists. I have to admit that the first piece Dow Jones - Danza Infernale has me utterly perplexed. A voice-over throughout explains some connection between the Dow Jones and Buxtehude, followed by reciting a chronology of world events. Eventually the words become unintelligible as the music becomes totally discordant; interesting, but I’m none the wiser. The final piece puts Bach’s ubiquitous Toccata and Fugue in D minor centre-stage. The piece is woven into the fabric of the work. Buxtehude makes an appearance halfway through. The jazzy interplay between the saxophone and the organ works well. The interjections of the Lübeck organ in sections of the Bach opus give some cohesion to the narrative.

Well recorded, the result is a spectacular sonic experience in demonstration sound quality.

Stephen Greenbank

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