Dieterich Buxtehude and His Organ Music
Diderich “Hansen” 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 at 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 became 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 5th of November 1667, the attractive position at St. Mary’s in Lübeck became vacant. In April of 1668, Buxtehude succeeded Tunder there and was formally appointed organist and Werkmeister. This 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.
Buxtehude continued Tunder’s concerts for the opening of the stock market, and further developed them into a series of “Abendmusiken” that occurred after the Vespers on the last two Sundays of Trinity and the second, third, and fourth Sundays of Advent. These soon- famous “Abendmusiken” were directed from the large organ. With its six surrounding balconies it could accommodate about forty singers and musicians, which presented an amazing visual effect and created a magnificent acoustical and symbolic representation of the “Macrocosm,” the music of the heavenly choirs and the medieval concept of the harmony of the spheres. The large ensemble performed new music by Buxtehude and other important composers in the Italian-German concerto or multi-choral style. Like Matthias Weckman with his Collegium Musicum in Hamburg (1660-1674), Buxtehude developed a significant forum for the performance of new music, previously reserved for relatively small audiences at courts, and created a new public function and demand for this representative music in the core of the Hanseatic city culture. The many manuscripts of his music, of central German to Scandinavian origin, bear witness to the Abendmusiken’s significant influence. The collection is the largest body of organ, vocal and instrumental music of any musician active in Northern Europe in the seventeenth century. Truly a musicus perfectus, Buxtehude composed vocal, instrumental, and keyboard music of all categories, and in his music we find such a variety of styles and genres that we must inevitably approach his work from a general cultural perspective; the organ music, in particular, must be viewed through the lens of the monumental organs of the cities of the Hanseatic League.
Buxtehude’s Organ Music and Its Context
The large city organs were important symbols of the prosperity and power of the free Hanseatic cities, but they were also symbols of the presence of the Macrocosm in the daily life of the citizens. The organs were a symbol of the congregation and of Christian life as a whole, and even the Creation itself, all of which can be seen in their allegorical use as a subject for sermons and other writings of the period. In the same vein, the organs’ pure major thirds of the triads stood as metaphors for the Holy Trinity. The Trinitas Harmonica was an integral part of this concept, and made mean-tone temperament irreplaceable. The Organo Pleno could also be seen as a representation of the harmony of the heavenly choirs. During the seventeenth century, organbuilders also began to develop the concept that the organ should encompass all musical instruments in itself. Organbuilders like Esaias Compenius, Gottfried Fritzsche, and Friederich Stellwagen developed new stops that resembled the sounds of the human-scale world of music, called Musica Mundana, an acoustical microcosm, creating an almost infinite number of choices of consort-registrations. In Buxtehude’s organ music, and in the city organs, the seventeenth-century Northern European concepts of the sacred and the secular, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, come together, juxtaposing and often integrating new and old perspectives.
Buxtehude’s free works comprise all the forms that were part of the Toccata tradition according to Johann Mattheson: “Intonazioni, Arpeggi, senza e con battuta, Arioso, Adagio, Passagi, Fughe, Fantasie, Ciacone, Capricci & c.” The angels and the statue of King David on the Lübeck Dom organ, as well as the elaborately carved wings on the sides of the pedal towers and the Rückpositiv, created the illusion that the organ is a baroque stage-set, extending the instrument into the space of the church beyond the confines of the instrument case. These visual sculptures have an aural correspondence in the different forms and figurations that belonged to the Toccata tradition: mimicking all of the personalities represented by typical actors of a baroque drama, the organist could render characters with different musical Affekts using the broad range and variety of combinations of registers.
In Buxtehude’s chorale fantasias, the organ case became an elaborate pulpit for a musical exegesis from the heavenly organist himself; in the North German tradition, the organist was sometimes called the “organ preacher.” In the small-scale organ chorales, where words were specifically and directly related to tones, a miniature style developed reflecting the aesthetic preference for arias from the new French Opera and corresponding to the small format of the pietistic songs of every-day life. The organ became the voice of the individual organist reflecting on one of the hymn verses through a simple musical meditation. Buxtehude’s chorale works comprise all categories from elaborated chorale fantasia to simple organ chorales, a prismatic reflection of the focal point of seventeenth-century sacred music: the hymn. Franz Tunder and Buxtehude both integrated these hymns in their cantatas and sacred concertos. In the tonal design of his instruments, Arp Schnitger provided powerful and fundamental reeds for the bass, and large, brilliant mixtures that were required for the accompaniment of congregational singing. Now all voices of the citizens were not only able but expected to sing with the church choirs, instrumentalists, and the heavenly choirs in the hymns and songs in their own native language. These monuments –material and non-material artifacts, music and instruments– witnessed the culmination of a new, dynamic and somewhat mannered style; a style that reflected the gradual emancipation from medieval ways to modern ones generated by the Enlightenment. Toward the end of his career, Buxtehude closely imitated Schnitger’s work when he built a new organ of this kind for the Lübeck Dom (1699).
Buxtehude and the Mean-tone Organ
What did Buxtehude experience and what music was generated when he visited these large new organs of his time? He must have tremendously enjoyed the new Schnitger organ in the Lübeck Dom, and played it rather frequently. Already in 1687, he 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 (although we have no historical evidence of that). 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.
Although the size and character of these instruments varied, they all shared the same temperament, mean-tone temperament, which generates colorful tension through constant contrast between dissonance and consonance, and relaxation through the harmony of the pure major thirds in all common chords, reflecting the heavenly harmony. Mean-tone temperament is probably the single most important factor for the sound, and for the successful presentation of affect and contrast in this music. The purpose of this 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. 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 with 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. Although it would have been fascinating to share the experience of the audience when Buxtehude played the Schnitger organs, the purpose of this recording is to create an interpretation of his music in our time, based on the same cultural patterns that generated Buxtehude’s organ art. In the liner notes, I aim to clarify what the objective and subjective aspects of this process were. The unique and superb quality of the ULSI recording technique, mastered by the recording engineer and ULSI inventor, Erik Sikkema, was a significant reason for this project. The ULSI technique makes it possible to experience the color and character of the whole frequency spectra of organ sound with an actual sense of the room and the location of the sounding sources.
The Organ Works and Mean-tone Temperament
Buxtehude’s organ landscape was in quarter-comma mean tone. Modification of mean tone, either systematical or of practical nature with compromise notes, was, if and when applied, an exception to the general practice. Because of the sustained nature of the organ sound and the expectation of stark contrast between consonance and dissonance, the mean-tone temperament with pure major thirds was preferred. It was a prerequisite for pure harmonic intonation in ensemble music, in which the large organs were frequently used as continuo instruments, and, despite contemporary theoretical discussions to the contrary, it was time-consuming and cost-prohibitive to apply these new temperaments to organs. Thus, it is clear that Buxtehude’s musical language developed within the realm of mean-tone temperament and that this temperament was standard when he played the organs. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a few of Buxtehude’s free organ works (BuxWV 141; BuxWV 142; BuxWV 149; BuxWV 151) are hardly playable in the keys in which they are preserved. Indeed, the free works of E minor, A minor, and G minor clearly benefit from the access to a d-sharp or a-flat instead of an e-flat or g-sharp (or instead of subsemitones, compromise notes for e-flat and g-sharp). There are several ways for the performer to diminish the harshness of impure harmony and/or dissonance, for example to shorten the length of dissonant notes or to add ornaments that hide them, or to adjust the registration from fuller registrations, for example Pleno, to solely Principal sound. However, the discrepancy between the temperament and a portion of the preserved works presents a problem that seems to be hard to solve. The notated versions may have been considered merely music for the eyes, or perhaps played on stringed keyboard instruments that more easily could be retuned. It was also foreign to the baroque era that a work of music existed as an absolute work in a completed form and carried with it the expectation that all notes should be possible to render exactly the way they are notated. The fact is that no organ works are preserved in autographs, and many compositions appear in somewhat different versions in different manuscripts. It is even documented that pieces surviving in keys like F-sharp minor were given to students to practice transposition.
We probably ought to take the baroque approach to this question: that the notated versions represent different versions of a work as a concept in evolution, and that it was perhaps never meant to be completed and final in a modern sense, but rather continuously developing and open for adjustments generated by the context and practical conditions. For this recording project, I have taken this approach, and searched various ways to play the problematic works on a mean-tone organ. In most cases, I decided to play the works in the keys given of the manuscripts, and, mostly, with the use of the subsemitones (d-sharp, a-flat and a-sharp), and in a few cases I transposed the compositions to suitable keys. In terms of the different readings of the manuscripts, I have generally followed Michael Belotti’s editorial recommendations in the Broude edition, but in a few cases I have developed my own adjustments.
The Italian Style and Buxtehude’s Music as Drama
In 1655, Mattias Weckman was unanimously appointed city organist in St Jacobi in Hamburg. The employment did not only bring a highly qualified organist to Hamburg, but also, and perhaps more importantly, somebody who had mastered the new Italian and “emotional” style of vocal and instrumental music and could establish and educate a Collegium Musicum to perform all the contemporary music in the city. Although Weckman, who had worked with an orchestra of Italian musicians in Dresden and who who had learned the Italian keyboard style directly from the Viennese and Imperial court organist, Johann Jakob Froberger, was the first city organist in the north to integrate the new language in the music culture, the Italian style was studied and adopted everywhere. Buxtehude continued this development with the “Abenmusiken” at St. Mary’s in Lübeck.
In 1706, Martin Heinrich Fuhrmann compared Buxtehude’s toccatas with those of Frescobaldi, and he stated: “thus, this German Italianizes and; indeed he runs many miles ahead.” Indeed, in Buxtehude’s toccatas and free works we encounter an unparalleled North European and late-Baroque equivalent to the master works of Frescobaldi. The fact that the earliest source of his work–emanating from Dresden (today known as the E.B. Codex or Lowell Mason Codex at Yale University, New Haven)—includes a rather large number of his works among significant pieces by, for example Frescobaldi (incorrectly attributed to Poglietti), Pasquini, Kerll, and Pachelbel, shows that already at this time these compositions were known and recognized as masterpieces of the Italian-German keyboard genre. In this project, I have carefully tried to identify the Italian style in Buxtehude’s free works and explored various ways to render them, for example in accordance with Frescobaldi’s performance recommendations.
The purpose of the secconda prattica—the Madrigal style and its keyboard representation, the toccata—was to render musical representations of human emotions, called Affekts. The only representative of this new style that was accepted in the frame of the liturgy was the “elevation toccata,” which used elements of the durezze e ligature style to present the Affekt of suffering and death, and in this context the death of Christ on the Cross. During the second-half of the seventeenth century, the rendering of Affekts became an increasingly important musical element, and opera music became the new musical form. Johann Kuhnau’s “Biblische Sonaten” were created with the purpose of providing keyboardists with examples and exercises of Affekts music. The connection to a well-known biblical drama or other literary references provided the inspiration for the projection of Affekts, which in the case of Kuhnau’s “Sonaten” even presented a drama and a complete story-line. Battles and pastorals are general examples and categories of Affekt music. Although stories and images of various kinds were only occasionally defined and described, a successful performance was always expected to project and communicate Affekts and emotions.
During the twentieth century, the main focus on baroque music was on structure, polyphony and other abstract qualities and the 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 this dimension to the process and in the performance 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 perhaps exciting.
Also in this respect, the mean-tone temperament, regardless of registration and sound, evokes and unleashes in the performer a new degree of sensitivity to the inherent expressivity of the texture, that irresistibly demands attention and influences rhetorical shaping and musical timing. A heightened sense of presence and connection to the sound is enhanced by the somewhat unpredictable behavior of the flow of air provided from treading the bellows, shaped through the sensitive action and transferred to the dynamically-balanced pipes of the North German Baroque Organ in Göteborg. In this way, the encounter of Buxtehude’s organ music and the mean-tone organ in Örgryte nya kyrka was truly demanding and inspirational, and the purpose of this recording is to share that living experience.
Buxtehude’s Free Organ Works
Praeludium in C Pedaliter (BuxWV 137) [CD1:1] is preserved in a unique source: a collection of ostinato works copied by Johann Christoph Bach (Andreas Bach Book). Sacred concertos sometimes concluded with an ostinato section of praise, but it seems to have been unusual to end free keyboard and organ works with a ciacona. The beginning of the piece was also unusual, starting with a bass solo to be played in the pedal. Buxtehude’s Praeludium in C shares some features with Georg Böhm’s Praeludium in C and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata in C; the main thematic material, the broken C-major chord, the exploration of pedal solo versus manual, the multi-sectional and contrasting texture and the extroverted, sometimes fierce and often joyful Affekt. The key of C major was considered suitable for fanfares, trumpet-like subjects, joyful material, and battles. Indeed, the north-German C-major pieces with pedal solos could perhaps be considered the Battallas of the north. The fact that Buxtehude’s Praeludium in C literally quotes the opening of Johann Kuhnau’s first Biblical Sonata, dedicated to the battle between David and Goliath, led me to explore the possibility that Buxtehude actually had this particularly popular battle in mind when he composed his piece. The recorded interpretation took the same program as its inspiration:
- Measures 1-11 Goliath appears and demonstrates his strength, some Israelites flee (passagi)
- Measures 12-19 David demonstrates his courage and willingness to fight Goliath
- Measures 19-22 The doubt and despair of the Israelites is expressed
- Measures 22-30 David reflects and hesitates . . .
- Measures 30-36 Encouraged by the people, David courageously approaches Goliath
- Measures 36-65 David and Goliath fight the battle (fugal texture played on all divisions on pleno)
- Measures 65-67 David throws the stone (end of the fugal section)
- Measures 68-74 Goliath totters, falls to the ground (the intentional dissonance in the treble g-sharp against the bass A), and dies . . .
- Measures 75-103 The Israelites celebrate the victory and rejoice (this is the ciacona).
The source provides no indication of where the pedal should be played. A selective approach has been applied in the fugal section, and in the opening the pedal line is sometimes played both in the pedal and in the manual. Although the North German organs never had a coupler to the pedal, the option that the organist performed a part both in the manual and the pedal was part of the tradition.
The Praeludium in D (BuxWV 139) [CD1:18] is also a work of similar Affekt, perhaps another Battalla, and with an unusual form that has no correspondence among the other Preludes. All sources, including the earliest, Gottfried Lindeman’s copy from 1714, present the piece in the key of D, and there is hardly any doubt that this was the original key. The modulations of the fugal section, as remote as to C# minor, and the dramatic modulations in measures 87-94 stretch the frame of mean-tone temperament. The dissonances that occur were most likely intentionally musically expressive. The recorded interpretation presents a pleno version of the work with the fugal section on a concerto registration and with the contrasting homophonic sections, similar to the texture of the elevation toccatas, played on a Principal 8’ with tremulant. Although we do not know where the limits of acceptable perceived dissonance lay in Buxtehude’s day, the approach with the Italian Principal registration makes the dissonances bearable and expressive to our ears. The sequential section (measures 70-86) is performed with all four manual divisions engaged and with the sixteenth-note figure soloed out in the following order Rp/Hw; Bw/Hw; Hw/Ow; Ow. In the Schmahl tablature, the Praeludium in D is preserved together with Bruhns’ Praeludium in e, a piece that Harald Vogel has suggested reflects the myth about Orpheus and Eurydice. The unusual form of the Praeludium in D may also suggest that it had a program beyond the general possibility of a Battalla. A useful image may be that it reflects the Easter miracle; the fanfares of the opening and the repetitive theme of the fugal sections all exude joy and excitement. The only entry of the pedal in a Buxtehude Prelude with a trill, may illustrate the dramatic moment of when the stone rolled away from the tomb. If so, the Adagio (measures 62-69) could portray Christ on the cross, the sequential patterns illustrating the shivering earth and the tearing of the veil of the temple from the top to the bottom, the following dissonant chords the shock, fear and hesitation of his disciples, and the final repetitive pleno chords, also unique in his oeuvre, the moment of the resurrection.
The Praeludiums in F (BuxWV 157) and in G (BuxWV 147) are also built around one single fugal section. The Preludium in G [CD2:3] is preserved in a unique source in the Engelhart-collection (Lund’s Universitetsbibliotek, Sweden). For several years, the copyist, Heinrich Christoph Engelhart, served as organist in the German Church in Göteborg, and we may assume that at least this work and probably more of Buxtehude’s Prealudia were known also in this city and in western Sweden. The comparatively short work with clear sections lends itself to a selective multiple-division pleno performance. The joyful opening section with repeated chords over organ points of the Praeludium in F (BuxWV 157) [CD2:5], can also be performed on the four different plenos of the North German Baroque Organ. Two contrasting statements of juxtaposed passaggi and repeated chords, reminiscent of the chamber-music texture of the sonatas, are followed by versions of the passagi for the pedal and a homophonic section with suspensions, dissonances and modulations typical of the Italian-German toccata style. The generally simple texture of the piece may be related to the Affekt of the key of F and its association with the Pastoral genre. The artful and rather complex fugue (the counter-subject and other figurations are systematically combined and explored) is best rendered with a consort registration, for example associated with the pipes and the flutes of the shepherds. The fugue is divided in two sections marked by the modulation to the dominant in measure 50, and it gradually returns to the tonic in measure 61. In the extended section (measures 61-69), the theme is accompanied by string-idiomatic sixteenth-note figuration. In the final section, the inventio of the piece, the main and contrasting ideas from the opening, sixteenth-note figuration versus repeated chords, are explored twice in reverse order.
The Praeludium in a (BuxWV 153), Praeludium in d (BuxWV 140) and Toccata in d (BuxWV 155) are more typical for Buxtehude, constructed with two fugal sections, the first in equal and the second in triple meter, and with a common theme that appears in slightly different configurations. The fugal sections are surrounded with substantial opening and concluding sections, whereas the length and character of the interludes between the fugues differs. The extroverted Praeludium in d (BuxWV 140) [CD2:1] opens and concludes with a virtuosic dialogue between the pedal and the manual parts. In the opening, it is occasionally interrupted with rhetorical gestures and pauses, for example with octave leaps, which constitute the core of the thematic material for the fugal sections. However, between the outer sections, the piece is composed in chamber music style; for example, the first fugue concludes with a virtuosic figuration that in a meditative interlude is carried on in the same fashion, typical for the reflective interludes in some of the sonatas. Suddenly an Allegro section with stretto entries in ascending fourths using the first notes of the fugal theme against a descending walking bass in diverging direction breaks out of the texture and generates energy for the appearance of the triple meter fugue. The ascending fourth and descending octave leap of the theme is surrounded by a step-wise descending chromatic counter-subject. In accordance with the style, I chose consort registrations that reflect the chamber music style, and played the first fugue on a quartet of sounds involving different “instruments” and colors of the RP, Hw, Ow and the Pedal. This approach gives a three-dimensional effect similar to that of a French “fugue a quator.”
Toccata in d (BuxWV 155) [CD2:17] is preserved in a unique source, the E.B. Codex (the abbreviation stands for the initials of the copyist, Emanuel Benisch) at the Yale University Music Library. The title Toccata | Sig. | Box de Hude | ex D ped: 1684 reveals that this piece was copied by an Italian-speaking admirer of the toccatas from the north who probably did not know much about Buxtehude. The critical studies of the manuscript emphasize its problematic nature and the multitude of mistakes and inconsistencies that need consideration and in many cases correction; yet, we do not have another source. The notation of the manuscript provides important information for the performer: the lack of bar-lines at the beginning and the end reflect the unmeasured character of these parts of the composition; the direction of beaming indicates the division of the parts between the hands (for example the passagi in measures 135-136); the annotation “Ped vel Man” support the application of selective performance of the bass part in the pedal, and “Final” may indicate that the final section of the piece could be viewed as a supplement that one could choose to include in the performance or not. The obvious mistakes and problematic issues, for example the notation of the second fugue in 3/4 as the accentuation of the music suggests or in 4/4, as the manuscript suggests, should be approached carefully, and perhaps considered part of the interpretation rather than of the editorial process. It is very inspiring to study the facsimile, and the right decision to publish this in its entirety in the Broude edition. I chose to play the second fugue with a varying accentuation dominated by triple meter, mostly on the level of 3/4, sometimes on the level of 3/2 and occasionally in 4/4 (measures 119-120). Consistency in the accentuation pattern could be questioned here and it is hard to believe that the copyist made mistakes in these measures or in measure 95 where the text clearly indicates a fermata. It was common in the canzon genre to have a pivotal point of some kind, often a cadence, in the center of a section and to start the return to the pitch starting point from there. The new edition that presents the varying readings inspires the performer to not only choose between them, but also consider creating new alternatives when the context and conditions require it. This approach can, of course, also be applied when problems appear and when no alternative readings are available.
The extroverted and monumental character seems to call for a large pleno. In the rhetorical opening section, I choose to apply the multiple-division pleno, occasionally shifting between the divisions for dynamical development, and sometimes solo out the ornamented parts. The 16-foot based pleno was chosen for the short imitative section (measures 19-26), which continues without interruption (double pedal) in the first fugue. The complex texture of the second fugue invites the choice of a small pleno based on 8-foot in the manual and pedal. The descending tendency and its minor-sixth interval (possibly depicting a cross motive) determines the serious affect that suddenly changes in measure 108 with ascending arpeggios and upbeat rhythmical chords and gestures. The unexpected and triumphant figures generate a joyful affect that is extended and confirmed in the regular harmonic shifts of the plagal “Final.”
After the arpeggio figuration and first cadence (measures 1-4) of the Praeludium in a (BuxWV 153) [CD2:10], a harmonically-generated section with short progressions of imitation of suspirans, many dissonances, and other rhetorical figures follow setting a tone reminiscent of Frescobaldi’s toccata texture, and of a rather introverted character. The sad character of the key of A minor is matched with a step-wise descending theme with repeated eighth notes, ending with a minor sixth and surrounded with a progression of 7-6 dissonances. The theme and its inversion are treated contrapuntally and artfully in two clearly divided sections (measures 21-42 and 42-64), the second with increasing complexity. These sections are played on similar principal registrations on two different divisions (Rp and Ow). After a short reflective interlude, the triple meter fugue with a chromatic version of the theme continues and finally modulates to C major (measure 94), where ascending fourth motives of fanfare-like character present an unexpected contrast. This joyful and extroverted character dominates the concluding section that, like the opening sections, is characterized by fast changes between several juxtaposed, contrasting figures and ideas. The Berlin manuscript repeats measure 110 (the fast-moving chords followed by bass figuration of this measure are written twice), which when performed this way on a large organ creates an echo possibility. The repetition increases the expectation of what will follow and thereby enhances the unexpected character of the unusual step-wise diverging chordal figuration. The final sixteenth-note figuration in 3/4 ends a rather sad work with a purely joyful Affekt.
Although the Praeludium in g (BuxWV 149) and the Praeludium in e (BuxWV 152) follow the general concept with two fugues, in equal and triple meter respectively, they also show several unusual features. The Praeludium in g (BuxWV 149) [CD1:9] opens and ends with an ostinato texture of a quite different nature. In the middle, an Allegro section that has no correspondence among his organ preludes appears as a stark contrast. The Motet style (“white notation”) and “Gebundene Stil” with suspensions and resulting dissonances of the first fugue and the constant and consecutive use of dissonance figures in the second fugue in slow triple meter (Largo, 3/2), a fuga patetica, gives the whole work a totally serious and introverted character, that of Affectus doloris. In the recorded interpretation I chose the old registration for a Motet intabulation with Trumpet and Zinck (from tenor f) for the first fugue. The combination of these stops creates a balance between the treble and the bass thanks to the constant scale of the Zinck resonators and its treble ascendance and the result creates an association to a French fugue. The rhythmical shape and character of the fuga patetica potentially enhances this impression, and I decided, according to French registration practice, to use a sesquialtera-combination (“Jeux de Tierce”) for the two treble parts, a trumpet for the tenor (Trompette) and Octave 8’ and Octave 4’ for the bass (Flute 8’). With a general eight-foot registration in the pedal, and with the use of the Principal 16’ in measures 119-125 it is also possible to make the Bass C# (measure 122) sound as notated (this note is not available in the pedal keyboard). The unusual, expressive and remote modulations of this fugue, the “unplayable” note in the pedal presentation and the gradual and almost imperceptible transition to the ostinato-form, makes it one of the most beautiful and perhaps mysterious preludes. The serious and expressive Affekt is dramatically enhanced by the mean-tone temperament. It is possible that Buxtehude’s musical imagination portrays the fall of mankind and in this sense the biblical story of the creation. The bass theme of the opening ostinato section is incomplete, open-ended (does not end on the tonic) and does not appear seven but six times, as many times as there were days in the creation. In place of a seventh statement, the theme is developed in four parts fugally, artfully and in full harmony over the whole compass of the keyboard, but ends with an organ point in the treble using dissonant suspensions but without a final cadence. Dissonant modulations express the temptation and finally the tasting of the apple. The Allegro section with the running and jumping bass expresses the joy and the dance of the snake, and the following and elaborate fuga patetica (falling and expanding intervals – third, tritone and minor sixth – literally depict “the fall”) the regret and despair of the world waiting for the final resolution and salvation. The piece ends without a real dominant-tonic cadence in root position, and the ostinato in C minor creates a strong plagal character because of its length and an expectation of continuation. The final chord with the major third in the treble also contributes to this impression. It is the only chord of this kind in any of the preludes. The ostinato of the end and of the beginning adds a cyclical dimension to the work, although with its open-ended character it gives the impression of having no beginning and no end. The fall of mankind charged the creation with sin and the Affekt of suffering and Buxtehude’s Praeludium may be heard as a musical rendering of this condition, and its demand for resolution and continued creation toward completion. There are no indications for the use of the pedal in the Lindeman tablature. I chose to play the whole Allegro section (measures 55-77) with pedal although this may represent more of an eighteenth-century approach (Agricola in his copy suggested pedal for measures 68-77), but it also gives a quite effective and exciting rendering of the snake’s triumphant dance.
The Praeludium in e (BuxWV 152) [CD1:3] is also built around two fugues, in equal and triple meter respectively, and renders an Affekt of sorrow and perhaps suffering. Johann Mattheson, in his Der Volkommene Capellmeister (1739) incorrectly quotes this piece as a composition by Johann Jakob Froberger, thereby associating it with the Italian toccata tradition. As its first work, the unique source for this piece, the E.B. Codex, presents Frescobaldi’s Toccata terza from the Second Toccata Book (incorrectly attributed to Poglietti), the most elaborate of his elevation toccatas. Buxtehude’s Praeludium in e is the first entry in Buxtehude’s hand in the collection and perhaps the corresponding placement reflects the similar style of the pieces. The opening section of Buxtehude’s piece literally quotes modulations and dissonance figures of Frescobaldi (for example measures 10, 14-15). The chosen mode, the Phrygian mode, is the most suited to the topic of elevation toccatas, the Affekt of suffering and death, and the mysterious transsubstantiation of the bread and wine of the communion to the body and blood of Christ. The theme of the fugue may have been derived from de Profundis (“Aus tiefer Not ruf ich zu dir”) and enhances the characteristic interval FA–MI of the Phrygian mode. The recorded performance is registered with different Principal 8 stops and rendered according to the serious and expressive style of the elevation toccata genre.
The Praeludium in g (BuxWV 163) [CD1:16] is a toccata of the Frobergian Italian-German style with clearly defined sections and suitable to any keyboard instrument. However, Buxtehude elaborated and extended this genre with the integration of the dramatic style of the late seventeenth century and a multitude of keyboard-idiomatic figuration. In the recorded performance most of the toccata is performed on the Rp, the division that has the most harpsichord-like character in this organ concept, with a selection of consort-registrations. The Praeludium in g contains three substantial contrapuntal sections (canzona, capriccio, fugue) of varying meter and character, introduced and interleaved with recitative-like sections based on harmonic patterns. The dramatic tone of this “musical speech” is set already within the first passagio, that moves from its highest note, a-flat, a foreign note for this key, to f-sharp, its lowest note. The two first contrapuntal sections have a common basic theme dominated by a stepwise falling fifth scale. The third section employs the same material in ascending motion. After the second contrapuntal section, the most elaborated canzona (measures 44-82), an intense musical discourse and dialogue consisting of rather short and contrasting sections follows. Simple and overlapping arpeggios, chromaticism, suspirans-figures, modulation to B major and back to the dominant preclude the final dance-like fugal section in 12/16. The Affekt is energetic, intense and joyful. The final two statements with ascending rhetorical scales and surprisingly short chords, confirm its capricious character and suitably end this artful musical speech.
A joyful and capricious mood also characterizes the two Canzonas chosen for this recording. The shorter Canzonetta in C (BuxWV 167) [CD1:4] is built on a repetitive eight-note motive, a rather rich and biting ornamentation in French style, creating a determined and forceful Affekt, with associations of fanfares considered idiomatic to the key of C-major. It is suitable to play on the reed chorus of the Rp. The Canzona in G (BuxWV 171) [CD1: 2] has two parts in stark contrast; the first theme, consisting of continuous pairs of repeated sixteenth-notes, is built on the intervals of a descending third, followed by an ascending fourth and a descending fifth, the second theme is a dotted version of the same pattern of intervals, but now in triple meter, 12/8. The first section is rather long, presents two complete expositions, the first modulating to the dominant and the second returning to the tonic, played on the Blockfloit 4’ of the Rp. The second is a shorter dance-like section that is played with a reed consort registration. The character of the Canzona-style is well suited to the responsive and elegant touch of the Rp or the Bw, but the compass of this piece requires a broken octave in the bass (in this case F-sharp) and therefore makes the Rp the only choice.
The Passacaglia in d (BuxWV 161) [CD2:16], one of three ostinato works by Buxtehude, has several features unusual to this genre: it is symmetrically shaped in four groups of seven variations over the ostinato theme consistently played in the pedal, and each section is composed in a different key (d, F, a and d). Short interludes build bridges between the sections that are composed in quite contrasting characters: the first section with suspensions and step-wise motion (transitus and figura suspirans); the second with some suspensions but primarily joyful rhythms (figura corta) and trill ornamentation; the third section with unexpected rests (suspiratio) and powerful chords in the manual, eighth-note scales and percussive arpeggio figuration that leads to a climax (measures 71-92); the fourth with triplet rhythm, an octave leap figuration and with fewer suspensions and dissonances. Buxtehude had a documented interest in rendering the cosmos in music (the seven planetary suites, BuxWV 251, for example), and the cyclical form of the Passacaglia inspired Piet Kee to suggest that the twenty-eighth variations reflect a full cycle of the moon. This performance features the contrast of character between the sections, perhaps reflecting the polarity of the temperaments of the planets and between harmony and dissonance. The first section is played in serious character with the Principal 8’ of the Rp; the second section with a calm pastoral character, accordingly employing the flutes (8’, 4’) of the Rp and Ow; the third with energetic outbursts of opposed, frustrated and upset emotion and Affekt, the fourth with reconciliation between the extremes of the previous, the two worlds of suffering and peace brought together, dynamically–balanced and rendered with the flutes and principal registrations in simultaneous dialogue. In this last and the second section of the Passacaglia, a two-manual-and-pedal performance was chosen to enhance the texture of the music.
Buxtehude’s Organ Chorale Works
The 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 detected in some of Buxtehude’s chorale works when concordances are available. In general, he made minor modifications to the text so that the works became congruent with the eighteenth-century sense of harmony, diminutions, and ornaments.
Peter Wollny’s recent finding in the Weimar collection of the young Johann Sebastian Bach’s copies of chorale fantasias of Buxtehude on “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein” and Johann Adam Reincken’s “An Wasserflüssen Babylon” shed some light on the development of these works. The young Bach studied and copied these masterworks during his time in Lübeck when he served as organ scholar and assistant to Georg Böhm. In Walther’s collections, we sometimes find the chorale works of Böhm and Buxtehude side by side. This is the case with the treatments of “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (Walther Ms Z/1). We also find Buxtehude’s large chorale fantasias on “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” and “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein” grouped together with Reincken’s “Was kann uns kommen an für Not.” In the chorale fantasias Walther experimented with notating the four voices of the fantasias over a three-staff score to make the distribution of solo, accompaniment, and echoes more clear. His attempts reflect the complex nature of the performance of these works, and also that there was no established tradition for performance scores of works of these kind in staff notation. The fantasias were 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.
The chorale fantasias constituted the core of the Arcanum of the city organists in northern Europe. The term Chorale fantasia is associated with the particular North German genre of long, artful chorale settings in which each phrase was treated separately, repeated once or several times as a whole or in parts. It had its liturgical function in the Saturday Vespers, where the organists used to play after the sermon for almost half an hour, elaborating the text of each chorale phrase and sometimes exploring the sonorities of the large organs. Such fantasias might also have been performed on festive occasions, which required elaborated organ music, such as the delivery of church records in Hamburg, gatherings in conjunction with the stock market exchange in Lübeck, and in general, visits by prominent persons.
Although chorale fantasias were composed throughout the seventeenth century, Pieter Dirksen has argued that the genre reached its peak in the 1660s, when Matthias Weckman, Christoph Bernhard (Cantor in Hamburg) Johann Adam Reincken, Johann Theile and most likely also Dieterich Buxtehude were occupied with contrapuntal experiments and exercises, canon writing and fantasias. Thus, the elaborate chorale fantasias by Buxtehude are most likely early works, developed and composed around the time of his arrival in 1668 as organist in St Mary’s church in Lübeck.
The fantasia on “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (BuxWV 188) [CD1:7] is composed in clearly distinguishable sections, one for each of the phrases. The first two phrases employ imitation of motives derived from the cantus firmus in all parts with the addition of fast figuration and echoes toward the end of the phrases (measures 1-67). He uses a chromatic theme in refined counterpoint in his treatment of the phrase “born of a virgin that is true,” perhaps reflecting the perspective of the predestined life of the newborn Savior and the death on the Cross (measures 67-98). The second to last phrase associated with the text “which makes the angelic throng rejoice” uses triple figuration (12/8) and frequent echoes for a natural and naive illumination of the song of the heavenly choirs (measures 98-139). The extroverted ending is decorated with two-part sixteenth-note figuration over organ points in the bass (measures 139-155). The “Auff 4 Clavier” interpretation of “Gelobet seist Du, Jesu Christ” on the recording employs similar combinations of flue stops that can be found in all divisions of the organ, and which are suitable for the Affekt of each phrase of the chorale and section of the fantasia. The Sexquialtera combinations of Rp and Bw echoed by the flute chorus (8, 4, 3, 2) of the Ow are used for the first and last sections, the 8-foot flutes of Rp, Bw and Hw with some reed solos for the second section, and a light principal chorus of all four manuals (8, 4, 2) are explored in the third section.
There were two main coexisting general categories of chorale-fantasias, one characterized by diversity and composed with multiple sections, like the fantasia on “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ,” and another characterized by continuity, like the fantasia on “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (BuxWV 196) [CD2:2]. Only the two last phrases of the hymnand the text and the preceding dependant clause, “to live for you,”are repeated twice. The text “to be useful to my neighbor” is illustrated with fast, descending scales in the treble and imitation of the initial fourth leap motive of the choral phrase in the middle parts and the bass. At first, the last choral phrase appears in the pedal without ornaments but decorated with an elaborate sixteenth-note figuration in the manual that circulates around the interval of a tenth above the cantus firmus notes. The unique placement of the melody in this phrase of the fantasia, and the somewhat cumbersome figural part, illustrate the fundamental value of the “Word of God” and the necessary effort one needs to make in order to follow it. The phrase is repeated once in the treble with octave leaps and figura corta and the meaning of the text, “to keep your word properly,” is further rendered in an extended two-part figuration of imitative, sometimes canon-like, character over organ-points in the pedal. This sixteenth-note figuration appeared already at the beginning of the fantasia, but then without a bass part and only as a single accompanying line to the cantus firmus, well illustrating the loneliness of the subject expressing “I call to you, Lord Jesus.” The pedal does not enter until the word “grace” appears in the third phrase (“bestow your grace on me at this time”), and suddenly the cantus firmus is enriched with tiratas and joyful figura corta. Buxtehude illustrates the Affekt of particular words with suitable figures and dissonances, for example for the rendering of “verzagen” (despair), and at the beginning, (Ich ruf) “zu dir” (I call to you), is illustrated with a sudden appearance of a third voice. The rendering of the words “right faith” of the next phrase, does not even present a cantus firmus, but a triplet duo accompanied by a few bass notes convey the sense of trust and confidence even without a leading part, and the following phrase, “which you wanted to give me,” continues with three parts but now the figuration turns to the bass and the left hand; the recipient is left alone, but God is with him and present on the earth. A close comparison between the text of the hymns and the corresponding phrases in Buxtehude’s choral works, often give evidence of his attention to the text and careful process of text-tone painting. The recorded performance applies the “Auff 3 Clavier” model with the vocal Trumpet and Vox Humana 8 solo (tremulant) as a starting point, and various selections of a few stops for accompaniment and dialogue that suit the general Affekt and texture of each phrase.
With the fantasia on “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (BuxWV 233) [CD1:17], Buxtehude introduces another category of fantasia form that features both contrast and continuity, and presents some patterns of a keyboard suite within an enclosed entity of what we may describe as a fantasy and fugue. “How beautifully the morning star shines / full of grace and truth from the Lord / the sweet branch of Jesse!” Buxtehude illustrates the general sense of balance, fulfillment and joy of the hymn text with a few triplet variants (6/4; C with triplets; 6/8; 12/8), a figure and rhythm that displays balance and perfection. Only for a short while, and when the text turns to “loving, friendly, beautiful and glorious,” fast and elegant ornaments change the generally peaceful character. This short section points toward the joyful gigue that will follow the completion of the first verse presenting the whole chorale melody a second time. For the recording I chose mild and sweet sounds, combinations of various flute and principal stops in all divisions, occasionally with cantus firmus solos and sometimes in dialogue between the divisions. The eighteenth-century style ornamentation in the rather late Walther copy (around 1740) of this work, also a single source, was not rendered literally.
In “Der vollkommene Capellmeister” (1739), Johann Mattheson describes how a hymn melody could be transformed to the various dance movements associated with the popular keyboard suite. What we encountered as an artful application of this practice in the second part of the fantasia on “Wie schön leuchtet ,” the gigue-like imitative section, Buxtehude fully explored in the suite on “Auf meinen lieben Gott” (BuxWV 179) [CD1:11–15], which contains five movements: Allemande, Double, Sarabande, Courante and Gigue. The purpose of this practice was not to create typical binary-form dances, but rather to capture the rhythm, texture and character of the dance archetypes while maintaining the shape of the hymn melody. The order presented in the source of the movements was followed in the recording, although the placement of the Sarabande before instead of after the Courant is not normal. Individual stops of the Rp (or in the Sarabande the Bw), or a combination of two stops were chosen. The delicate sounds and touch of the Rp and the availability of the three subsemitones per octave were determining factors for this choice.
Buxtehude’s Te Deum laudamus (BuxWV 218) [CD2:11–15] is a cyclical work that most likely was not created for liturgical alternatim practice (only four of the verses are included), but rather conceived as an independent artwork. It is possible that Buxtehude created a musical drama, a kind of organ-opera or oratorio, by selecting a few verses of the chant, so that the duration of the overall work would be commensurate with the length of a chorale fantasia.
Buxtehude chose four text strophes for his composition and they are all indicated at the beginning of each section in the only extant and complete source. They appear in the following order: “Te Deum laudamus” (measure 44); “Te Martyrum, a 2 Clav. e Ped:” (measure 87); “Tu devicto, cum 3 subjectis” (measure 117); “Pleni sunt coeli et terra” (measure 161). Another complete source, lost during World War II, had, according to Spitta, additional text for the heading of “Pleni sunt coeli et terra,” namely “Secundus versus.” Indeed, when this verse is played as the second verse of the cycle, which is the case on the recording, the overall form balances better, and it also ends with the same key as that of the beginning: the Phrygian key on E.
The cycle opens with an Exordium and Praeludium consisting of three short sections of diverse characters: sixteenth-note figurations in free imitation (3/4); a slow, recitative-like Phrygian cadence (C), and a fugal section with eighth notes as the fastest note values (3/4). It is possible that they reflect the distinct personalities of the Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The Phrygian cadence was considered appropriate to express the Affekt of suffering, and its characteristic cadence, the falling semi-tone (F–E or Fa–Mi) was associated with the misery and pain of the creation after the fall: “misera et fames.” Thus, the second section of the Exordium lends itself well to musical rendering of the sacrifice of the Son.
The first setting of the chant (“Te Deum laudamus”) presents it in cantus planus and whole notes with sixteenth-note figuration either above or below in a two-part and then three-part setting, including the pedal, and finally with three statements of five-part imitation in stretto and with double pedal. The archaic bicinium texture that dominates this work is registered with the 16-foot pleno of the Great (Hw). The second section (“Pleni sunt coeli et terra”) is a chorale fantasia with ornamented cantus firmus that runs between the treble and the bass, an ostinato and a fugal section enriched with echoes, all compositional elements that beautifully render the praise of the heavenly choirs. This recording presents a four-manual registration based on the combination of stops known as the standard chorale fantasia registration of Jacob Praetorius and Matthias Weckman: a treble solo in the Oberwerk with Trompette 8’, Zinck 8’, Spitzfloit 4’, Nassat 3’ and Gemshorn 2’, accompanying middle parts in the Rückpositiv with Principal 8’ and Octav 4’. However, the recording does not present the complete reed chorus of the pedal (Posaunen 16’, Trommet 8’ and 4’, Cornet 2’ or the “Cornetten baß”) that was used in the Praetorian registration when the bass had a solo function, in canon or dialogue with the treble. The third section (“Te Martyrum, a 2 Clav. e Ped:”) presents the praise of the martyrs; the cantus firmus in the middle part is surrounded by sixteenth-note figuration, partly in free canon, between the treble and the bass. The basic pattern of another of the original Weckman registrations can be applied, the Sonaten registration, which used the melody line played with Trumpet 8’ in the pedal, the bass played with Trumpet 16’ on the Hauptwerk (left hand) and the two accompanying parts (treble and alto) played by the right hand with the façade Principal of the Rückpositiv. Because the G-sharp of the bass only is available in the Rückpositiv, the left hand is played with the Dulcian 16’ of this division. The fourth and final section has three parts; the first is written in fugal style with an appealing and strong theme (repeated notes), the second presents a complex five-part setting embellished with suspensions, dissonances, chromaticism and modulation, and the final is a short harmonically based setting with continuous successions of trills in all parts. The three sections may reflect the victory over death (Trumpets) of Christ (Vox Humana), and the praise in heaven and earth (“Volles Werk”).
In the organ chorales, the individual words of the phrases of hymns were composed with varying and suitable musical figures and ornaments in accordance with the preceding discussion of the chorale fantasia, “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ.” The melody was almost always in the treble on a solo registration, with the bass in the pedal, and the middle parts on a separate manual. The purpose of the organ chorales was to express the inner meaning of the text and to give the listener reason to contemplate, to generate an instrumental reflection and correspondence to the pietistically-oriented Kirchen-Gesang. The short organ chorales are performed with various “Auff 2 Clavier” registrations that are suitable to the texture and the Affektrespectively, and the four-manual organ in Örgryte offers a multitude of such solo combinations. The fact that only one cycle of chorale verses, “Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott” (BuxWV 207) [CD2:6–9], is preserved, most likely reflects that the alternatim practice during Buxtehude’s tenure in Lübeck was not the core of the liturgical practice anymore, or at least did not involve the organ. The four verses of the cycle do not follow the typical pattern of the cycles of Heinrich Scheidemann or Matthias Weckman with the first verse presenting the cantus firmus in the bass in a four to five voice setting and the second being a reflective and expressive setting “Auff 2 Clavier,” sometimes a chorale fantasia. The first verse of Buxtehude’s cycle is an intimate three-part setting with the cantus firmus in the soprano and sixteenth-note figuration with figura suspirans in the other parts and sometimes also in the soprano. The Walther version chosen for this recording includes rather rich ornamentation, here performed mostly in Italian-German style. The second and fourth verses are bicinia, two-part settings, with the cantus firmus in the soprano. The figuration of the bass in verse two changes radically between the phrases, mostly in various dotted rhythms with suspensions and occasionally with chromaticism. It presents a strong and contrasting character to the cantus firmus, and it is well rendered with a Trumpet registration. The figuration of the fourth verse has a different character, almost no suspensions or dissonances, mostly in alternating eighth notes and sixteenth notes. The intimate and moderately joyful Affekt is rendered with a registration of Quintadena 8 and Blockfloit 4. The third verse “Auff 2 Clavier” is an inward-looking and expressive setting with an independently ornamented cantus firmus in the soprano, and where the accompanying parts present imitation of distinct motives derived from almost all of the phrases. It is a typical organ chorale in Buxtehude style and does not bear any evidence of chorale fantasia. The melody of the hymn “Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott” is the same as that of “Vater unser im Himmelreich.” The first and third verses of the cycle are performed according to the versions in Walther’s manuscripts which bear references to the text of “Vater unser.”
The organ-chorale “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (BuxWV 219) [CD2:4] differs from the third verse of the aforementioned cycle in that Buxtehude here explores ascending chromaticism in the second phrase. Here the text of the first verse of the hymn states “Brothers to be, and on Thee call” [“Brüder sein und dich rufen an”], probably alluding to the death of Christ and our call to follow our brother and savior. The last phrase is treated differently from the previous phrases in that it is more expressively and richly ornamented, a kind of vocal recitative where Buxtehude probably reflects the meaning of the last phrase of the hymn, underlining that the prayer should not just be empty words, but come from our hearts. The two last phrases of the first verse of the hymn read: “Grant that the mouth not only pray / From deepest heart O help its way.” [“Gib, daß nicht bet' allein der Mund / Hilf, daß es geh' von Herzensgrund! ] The vocal Principal 8 of the Rp with the tremolo was chosen for the solo. There are also two organ chorale settings on “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (BuxWV 208; 209) [CD1:8,10] and although they are generally similar they also demonstrate some differences, mostly in ornamental style. BuxWV 208 is the most elaborated, the ornamentation more varied and sometimes in instrumental style (for example the arpeggios in measures 12 and 16). The bass is more independent, sometimes imitating the figuration of the solo voice in the soprano, and on this recording therefore played with a Dulcian 16’ that corresponds to the reed solo of the Rp. The cantus firmus of BuxWV 209 is ornamented in vocal style (played with Vox Humana 8’), more contemplative, the over-all chorale somewhat shorter, and without the extended ending of BuxWV 208, in which the melody moves an octave higher, intensely illustrating the prayers of the last word of the hymn text, “Kyrieleis.” Both chorales are harmonized expressively with changes of harmony on the half-note level and occasionally, and somewhat more often in BuxWV 208, on the quarter-note level.
The chorale “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (BuxWV 211) [CD1:5] follows the path of BuxWV 209 but employs more dissonant figures and occasionally chromaticism because of its Advent character. Particularly phrase three shows some unusual features; it begins with a suspiratio on the first note, an unexpected rest in all parts except the soprano, and ends with a descending scale between the forbidden polarities of two-line f and one-line f–sharp, illustrating the amazement that spread down to the world. The chorale text reads: “so that all the world is amazed” [“Dass sich wundre alle Welt”]. The amazement of the world is also heard in the following two measures that quote the opening and ending phrases of the hymn in the bass. This is the only interlude in any of the contemplative chorales of this type that is more than one measure and that renders the cantus firmus of a complete phrase in the bass. Indeed, Buxtehude in this way enhances the amazement of the world that “God ordained such a birth for him.”
The Christmas chorale “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (BuxWV 189) [CD1:6] represents a quite different Affekt genre and another selection of musical rhetorical figures; fourth, fifth and octave leaps in the bass and sometimes in the middle parts, the joyful rhythm of figura corta (an eight note followed by two sixteenth notes), and suspiratio, frequently used to create the sense of expectation, and here, perhaps an appeal of praise. The final figuration in the soprano descending more than three octaves over three measures, illustrates in a typically baroque manner that God’s son was brought from heaven to earth. The fourth phrase, “at which the host of angels rejoices,” is introduced by an ascending interlude that also increases in numbers of voices over two measures. At the point of the word “angels,” the soprano bursts out in sixteenth notes, and the bass, after a sudden rest, proceeds in octave leaps and surprisingly ends on a C-sharp; the mysterious birth, through the suffering of Christ, will ultimately bring peace to the world – “Kyrieleis.” Particularly in the chorales with joyful Affekts, we encounter a certain elegance in the figuration and overall character, perhaps what Johann Mattheson alluded to as a quality of “sweetness” and as the main feature of Heinrich Scheidemann’s organ playing. In Buxtehude’s organ chorales, however, there is always an underlying projection of the meaning and affect of the chorale text; in the miniature format of the organ chorale, Buxtehude, the true musicus perfectus rhetorically renders an almost indefinite variety of harmonic and ornamental expressivity. He establishes a new genre that will be equally mastered only by Johann Sebastian Bach in some of his organ chorales, particularly the “Orgelbüchlein.”