Dieterich Buxtehude & His Organ Music
Buxtehude is perhaps the earliest composer whose works belong to the common repertoire of most organists. Although he also left an impressive corpus of arias, sacred concertos, and cantatas for voices with instruments as well as two printed editions of sonatas for strings, it is chiefly his organ music that has captured the attention of performers both in his day and in our own. The many manuscripts of his music, preserved in central German and Scandinavian sources, witness its significant influence. It is the largest body of organ, vocal and instrumental music of any musician active in Northern Europe in the seventeenth century.
Diderich Buxtehude (1637–1707) was born in Denmark, and was active as an organist, composer and cultural entrepreneur in Denmark and Sweden as well as in Germany where he became known as Dieterich Buxtehude. His father, Johannes (Hans) Buxtehude, who started his career as organist in Helsingborg but soon moved to Helsingør, taught Dieterich the foundations of organ playing and introduced him to Johan Lorentz, Jr., the famous organist in St. Nicolai in Copenhagen. It is possible that Dieterich studied with Lorentz or that he was sent to Franz Tunder in Lübeck or Heinrich Scheidemann or, perhaps, Matthias Weckman in Hamburg (although we have no evidence for this). In 1657, he started his career as organist in St Mary’s church in Helsingborg and, in 1660, he assumed the same responsibility at St. Mary’s in Helsingør. When Franz Tunder died on the November 5, 1667, the position at St. Mary’s in Lübeck became vacant. In April of 1668, Buxtehude succeeded Tunder and was formally appointed Organist and Werkmeister. The prestigious position in the significant Hanseatic League city of Lübeck became the primary arena for his activities as organist, composer, chief administrator and cultural entrepreneur for the next forty years.
The Bach Perspective
The selection of works for volume two of this recording project consists of pieces by Buxtehude that Johann Sebastian Bach and the musicians who belonged to the Bach circle studied, shared, and admired. Buxtehude’s music must have been the most advanced organ music that Johann Sebastian encountered in his formative years, and Buxtehude and Pachelbel were probably the contemporary organ composers that influenced him the most. The fact that Johann Sebastian shared his enthusiasm for Buxtehude’s music with his students and colleagues contributed greatly to the copying and wide dissemination of Buxtehude’s works. Buxtehude’s free works are the most frequently transmitted works in the manuscripts of the Bach circle along with those of J. S. himself. Two thirds of Buxtehude’s free works for pedaliter and forty of the chorale works are preserved in manuscripts emanating from the Bach circle. Thus, Johann Sebastian Bach’s and the Bach circle’s perspective on Buxtehude is in many ways the same as the twenty-first century perspective.
The recent discovery by Martin Maul and Peter Wollny of the Weimar tablature including the young Johann Sebastian Bach’s copies of chorale fantasias by Buxtehude on “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein” (the opening section of BuxWV 210, in the Weimar tablature, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek: Fol. 49/11) and Johann Adam Reincken’s (1643-1722) “An Wasserflüssen Babylon” sheds new light on Johann Sebastian’s perspective on the organ music from the north. Wollny dates the Bach autograph of “Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein” to 1698-99. At this time, Sebastian still lived in Ohrdruf with his older brother Johann Christoph (1671-1721), who also was his teacher. Johann Christoph encouraged his younger brother to study and copy the works of the most important composer of the time, including those of Johann Christoph’s teacher, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706, court organist in Eisenach 1677, and finally organist in Nürnberg from 1695). The young Sebastian industriously acquainted himself with the music of his time. It is fascinating to know that the thirteen-year-old prodigy immersed himself in such complex works as the chorale fantasias by Dieterich Buxtehude. The chorale fantasias were considered valuable study objects for invention and development of counterpoint, but they did not match the taste of the time or the demand of music within the liturgy anymore. However, this was not Sebastian’s first encounter with the artful works of the city organist in the north.
Bach may have studied the seven preludes, toccatas, and two canzonas in the only extensive source of Buxtehude’s music that survives from the seventeenth century, the Codex “EB–1688” (New Haven, Yale University Music Library, USA, “Lowell Mason Codex”). The Dresden organist Emanuel Bencher (corresponding to the initials “EB”, 1679-95 organist in the Frauenkirche and Sophienkirche, and 1696-1725 in the Kreuzkirche) copied this manuscript. The first part of the Codex “EB 1688” (227 pages) contains primarily free works by Italian and south German masters such as Pasquini, Poglietti, Kerll, and Pachelbel, and, among the works from the north, the preludes by Buxtehude dominate. The first toccata of the collection is incorrectly attributed to Poglietti. In fact, it is Frescobaldi’s third toccata from the second toccata book (1637), the most extensive of his elevation toccatas, that opens this collection of the Italian-German keyboard tradition. All titles are given in Italian, and the fact that the works by Buxtehude are attributed to “D. Box de Hou”, “D. Box de H.” or “Box de Hude,” clearly indicate that Emanuel Bencher did not compile but merely copied the works of the collection. Buxtehude scholar Kerala Snyder suggests that Nicolaus Adam Strungk, who was in 1688 appointed vice Kapellmeister and chamber organist of the electoral court, was the driving force in collecting the works, but also states that this hypothesis does not explain why we find the Italian headings. Harald Vogel suggests that Vincenzo Albrici (1631-1696) was the compiler. Albrici was one of the most distinguished cosmopolitan virtuosi in Europe, traveling from Rhome to Stockhom in the north, and served as Kapellmeister at the court in Dresden 1673-1680. The Italian headings, the Italian staff notation, and the high quality and great diversity of the collection point in the direction of a cosmopolitan compiler of Italian origin. In any case, the existence of the extensive number of Buxtehude Preludia in this collection witness that they were highly regarded and an integral part of the Italian- German keyboard tradition already at the time of Johann Sebastian’s birth. In 1699, Johann Pachelbel dedicated the Hexachordum Appolinis to Buxtehude. In 1706, Martin Heinrich Fuhrmann (1669–after 1745) compared Buxtehude’s toccatas with those of Frescobaldi, and stated: “this German Italianizes and; indeed he runs many miles ahead.” He argued that in Buxtehude’s toccatas and free works we encounter an unparalleled North European and late-Baroque equivalent to the master works of Frescobaldi, and that his keyboard works even surpassed those of the southern master. From this perspective, it is not a surprise that when it was time for Johann Sebastian to leave Ohrdruf and study elsewhere, he decided to go north, to the wealthy salt-mining city of Lüneburg. Thanks to the quality of his voice, he was offered a full scholarship at the Latin school, and given the opportunity to study for the well-known organist Georg Böhm (1700-1702). This gave him the opportunity to learn almost everything about the music of the masters of the Hansa cities in the north. The Bach autograph of Reincken’s chorale fantasia from the Weimar tablature is dated 1700 (“Il fine / a Dom. Georg Böhme / descriptum ao. 1700”). During the Lüneburg period, Bach visited Celle and Hamburg, and it is possible that he encountered and heard Buxtehude there, although he may not have visited Lübeck.
In 1705, Johann Sebastian walked all the way from Arnstadt (where he was organist 1703–1707) to Lübeck to visit with Buxtehude. It is easy to imagine Sebastian’s excitement over this opportunity, and how the twenty-year-old musician, during his journey to the north, contemplated and thought about Buxtehude’s music, and various ways of developing its material. There were many purposes for his visit; he desired to study with Buxtehude, to get acquainted with the “complete” works of the master including the vocal and instrumental works, to spend time and discuss with the most appreciated northern organ composer and aging master of his time, to experience and probably participate in a whole season of his famous Abendmusiken, to study and play the large organs of the north including the new Schnitger in the Dom, and, of course, in addition to all of this foster common career development goals: to network among musicians and citizens in Lübeck, to explore future professional opportunities, to get acquainted with the context of the city organist’s life and the entrepreneurial endeavors related to the well-known Abendmusiken. Indeed, it must have been a busy and most inspiring visit. Instead of the admitted one-month leave of absence that the church council in Arnstadt had granted him, the young organist extended his stay to four months without permission. At this time, part of anyone’s study of music was to copy compositions and models. The young Sebastian must have returned to Arnstadt with a multitude of new works and materials, eager to study and share them with his brother Johann Christoph, other colleagues and friends, and to continue to explore their ideas in music making, improvisation as well as composition.
Johann Christoph has been identified as the main scribe of two important manuscripts, the “Andreas Bach Buch” (named after his son Andreas) and the “Möllersche Handschrift.” These sources contain a rich repertory and wide variety of genres of north German keyboard music, mostly free works, and several by Buxtehude. Each source opens with a work in autograph by Johann Sebastian, and, according to Harald Vogel, he may also be the scribe of more works in these collections. In any case, we can be quite sure that the Buxtehude works in these sources, particularly the unique works, were brought back from Lübeck to Saxony by Johann Sebastian.
All but two of the Buxtehude works in the “Andreas Bach Buch” are pedaliter works, and four of the six works are in whole or in part ciacconas. Buxtehude’s Passacaglia (BuxWV 161) and Ciacconas (BuxWV 159, 160) represent the pinnacle of organ works of this genre, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passacaglia(BWV 582), also included in the collection, was probably composed in conjunction with the trip, or perhaps as a memorial piece in honor of the north German master after his death in 1707. In general, the ciaccona was used as a basic form in improvisation (both in keyboard and general instrumental practice), but it also lent itself to artful compositions, to symbolic depictions of cosmic order, the orbits of the planets, or expressions of praise and fiery concluding statements (for example in vocal works). Buxtehude clearly had an interest in rendering the cosmos in music (for example witnessed by the lost seven planetary suites, BuxWV 251), and the Dutch organist Piet Kee, has suggested that the twenty-eight variations of Bach’s Passacaglia, and its cyclical form in four parts, might reflect a full cycle of the moon. It is easy to imagine Buxtehude and Bach in the winter of 1705-06 admiring the astronomical clock in St Mary’s, and for example discussing and exploring the emblematical and compositional potential of the basso ostinato form. This form was particularly suited to pedaliter performance, perhaps to be rendered on apedal clavichord. Bach owned a two-manual pedal clavichord (See Joel Speerstra: Bach and the Pedal Clavichord: An Organist’s Guide; University of Rochester Press, 2004), and pedal clavichords were integral to the keyboard culture in the north.
The selection of works in this volume of the recording thus presents works that Buxtehude most likely studied during his visit to Lübeck, and they are contained in the “Andreas Bach Buch” (Leipzig, Städtische-Bibliotheken-Musikbibliothek LEm , Sammlung Becker III.8.4: BuxWV 150, 159, 160, 174), the “Möllersche Handschrift” (Berlin Staatsbibliothek B, Mus. Ms. 40644: BuxWV 165), and three manuscripts from New Haven, Yale University Music Library: LM 4838 (BuxWV 138), LM 4983 (BuxWV 164, 172), and The Codex “EB–1688” (BuxWV 136, 142, 144, 148, 158, 166, 175). For a complete description of the Buxtehude manuscripts of the Bach Circle, see Kerala Snyder, Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck, University of Rochester Press, 2007 (pp. 322-333). A few of the most well-known organ works from these sources were included in the first Volume (LRCD-1090-91:BuxWV 137, 152, 155, 161).
In 1708, when Johann Sebastian assumed his position as court organist in Weimar, he could share his interest in Buxtehude’s music with his cousin and colleague, Johann Gottfried Walther, city organist in Weimar from 1707. Walther had already studied and copied a substantial part of Buxtehude’s work, particularly the chorale works. In fact, Buxtehude’s chorale works are almost all preserved in copies, often single sources, in Johann Gottfried Walther’s hand. His role as an encyclopedic collector of German baroque organ music can hardly be overestimated, and his approach and method of adjusting and slightly modifying the collected works can be observed in some of Buxtehude’s chorale works of which concordances are available. In general, he made minor modifications to the text so that the works became relevant to the eighteenth-century sense of harmony, diminutions, and ornaments. The sources of the Bach circle not only contain the largest part of the extant organ music of Buxtehude to survive until our time–the works that Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Gottfried Walther and the Bach circle knew–but, to varying degrees, they also present an eighteenth-century perspective of their form and performance practice. This “Bach perspective” has been explored in some of the interpretations in this volume (detailed notes of each piece follow). One general aspect of a Bach performance might stem from the increased number of ornaments in the eighteenth-century manuscript sources of Buxtehude and his contemporaries. This increase in ornamentation may also directly effect choices of tempo and accentuation, and sometimes encourage a more lyrical approach. The wide range of seventeenth-century registration possibilities can be extended from seventeenth-century ideas of consort playing to eighteenth-century ideals of chamber music playing, such as the registration annotations found in Georg Kaufmann’s “Harmonische Seelenlust” published in Leipzig in 1733.
Buxtehude and the Mean-tone Organ
Johann Sebastian chose to study in the north and visited Lübeck so that he would get the opportunity to play and study the monumental organs of the north. He encountered an organ landscape totally different from that of central Germany, and he got acquainted with the work of the organbuilding master Arp Schnitger (1648–1719), for example his new organ in Lübeck Dom (1699). Buxtehude himself must have tremendously enjoyed the new Schnitger organ in the Dom, and played it rather frequently. In 1687, he had played and admired the largest organ Schnitger ever built, the four-manual organ in Hamburg Nicolai, and he most likely also played and enjoyed the second four-manual organ that Schnitger built a few years later in Hamburg Jacobi. The encounter between a superb musician and a high-quality instrument of the same culture generates an unpredictable and exciting interaction and symbiosis. Some of Buxtehude’s compositional language patterns were probably enhanced and new ideas must certainly have developed in these encounters. Mean-tone temperament is probably the single most important factor for the sound, and for the successful presentation of Affekt and contrast, in this music. For the first time, this recording presents all of Buxtehude’s works in quarter-comma mean-tone temperament and played in their original keys. Two of the Preludes are also recorded transposed to other keys (BuxWV 141, E to C, and 142, e to d), and in alternative interpretations. The purpose of this three-volume recording project is to explore the encounter between Buxtehude’s organ music and the North German Baroque Organ in Örgryte nya kyrka in Göteborg, the largest four-manual organ in Schnitger-style built in our time and the only four-manual instrument in this style, antique or modern, tuned in quarter-comma mean-tone temperament.
For more information about mean-tone temperament, or Buxtehude’s organ music and its context, or about the Italian Style and Buxtehude’s music as drama, visit www.gothic-records.com, or see volume 1 of this recording series: Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ (LRCD-1090-91).
In this first recording of the complete organ works on a large mean-tone organ, the known information about performance practice has been applied, but the encounter between the music and the instrument inevitably generated new perspectives, and led to an expansion of the frame for performance decisions and called for new aspects of “orchestration” and rhetorical rendering. In the notes on the recording, I aim to clarify the objective and subjective aspects of this process. The unique and superb quality of the ULSI recording technique, mastered by the recording engineer, Erik Sikkema, its inventor, added a significant dimension to this project. The ULSI technique makes it possible to experience the color and character of the whole frequency spectrum of the organ, with an actual sense of the room and the location of the divisions of the organ.
During the twentieth century, the main focus of Baroque music performance was structure, polyphony and other abstract qualities. Aspects of rhetoric and natural philosophy, integral elements of the paradigm of the German Baroque, were problematic to apply in analysis and performance. In this project, I have tried to add these dimensions, and have searched for a rhetorical shaping of the contrasting Affekts that can be detected in the multi-sectional form, and rendered with constant change of articulation, touch, shape, flow and direction, mostly hardly noticeable, sometimes dramatic and hopefully exciting. Furthermore, the mean-tone temperament, regardless of registration and sound, unleashes in the performer a new degree of sensitivity to the inherent expressivity of the texture, which influences rhetorical shaping and musical timing. The somewhat unpredictable behavior of the airflow from the treaded bellows creates a heightened sense of presence and connection to the sound, as do the sensitive action and the dynamically-balanced pipes of the North German Baroque Organ in Göteborg. The encounter between Buxtehude’s organ music and the mean-tone organ in Örgryte nya kyrka was truly demanding, but also inspirational, and the purpose of this recording is to share that living experience.
– Hans Davidsson