BMC 29


A Programme
of Organ and Choral Music

Our illustration
is an oil painting on linen of Lübeck,
featuring the Rathaus and Marienkirche.

1.  Organ:
Prelude & Fugue in a minor, BuxWV 153

2.  Cantata:
Alles, was Ihr tut mit Worten oder mit Werken
All that Ye do in Word or Deed, let it be in the Name of Jesus
for Bass, Four-part Choir, Strings & Continuo, BuxWV 4

Organ Selection
3.  Chorale Prelude:
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt BuxWV 183

4.  Prelude, Fugue & Chaconne in C Major, BuxWV 137

5.  Ciacona in e-minor, BuxWV 160

6.  Chorale Motet: Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
    (With Peace and Joy I enter therein)
    for Choir and Stringed Instruments, BuxWV 76a

Organ Selection
7.  Chorale Prelude: Nun lob, mein Seel, dem Herren BuxWV 213
8.  Prelude & Fugue in C Major, BuxWV 136
9.  Passacaglia in d-minor, BuxWV 161

10.  Cantata: Befiehl dem Engel, dass er komm,
     (Bid the angel come and watch over us)
    for Four-part Choir, Strings & Continuo, BuxWV 10

Organ Selection
11.  Chorale Prelude: In Dulci Jubilo BuxWV 197
12.  Toccata & Fugue in F Major, BuxWV 157

In October 1705, the Arnstadt Church Council granted their new organist, 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach leave to visit... not Rome like his contemporary Handel, but the north-German city of Lübeck to hear the great organist, Dieterich Buxtehude.

This was to involve Bach in a journey of some 400 miles, part by river boat, part perhaps by thumbing a lift from a passing cart, but much of the journey necessarily on foot. But the reward was clearly worth the effort for the young Bach, who took every opportunity to hear Buxtehude play, and to attend the famous evening concerts of choral and organ music known as the Abendmusiken, held in the Marienkirche where Buxtehude was organist. Bach was so fascinated by these concerts, and by his discussions on the arts with the great master, that he remained in Lübeck over Christmas until the following February, bringing back with him copies of more than half of the master's known works.

The most striking feature of Buxtehude's "free" organ compositions, that is, his non-sacred works, is their improvisatory, almost undisciplined nature as illustrated most clearly in his Toccatas, Preludes and Fugues, with their short dramatic episodes full of light and shade, surprise turns of harmony and format, as a seemingly gentle chaconne contrasts with a flash of brilliant episodic toccata. Perhaps Bach's seven harpsichord toccatas most nearly reflect those of Buxtehude (see BACH 726).

On this present disc we attempt to re-create the spirit of Buxtehude's Abendmusiken in a programme which alternates choral motets or cantatas with organ chorale variations, chaconnes and dramatic toccatas. The organ works were recorded on the historic organs in St Jakobi, Hamburg (original 1512 organ rebuilt Schnitger 1693) and Steinkirchen (1581 and earlier pipework, rebuilt Schnitger 1685-7). The Fugue in C holds an unusual surprise in the form of a catchy syncopated theme!

Compared to the cantatas of J.S. Bach, those of Diderik Buxtehude are less complex, more quiet and introspective. They are refreshing in their simplicity, tranquil in their transparent clarity. Buxtehude's setting of the Lutheran chorale Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr' dahin - "With peace and joy I enter therein", is the least complicated, and yet one of the most beautiful. In the final verse, "He is the bright and holy light and succor to the heathen, who know Thee not," the chorale melody is sung in its inversion.

Total time: 72:34

Baroque Music Library