Programme notes: Two Baroque Giants

Mayfair Organ Concerts. The Grosvenor Chapel. 9 August 2022

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays music by
Two Baroque Giants – Buxtehude & de Grigny

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Praeludium in d minor BuxWV 140
Ciacona in e minor BuxWV 160

Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703).
Recit de Tierce pour le Benedictus
Dialogue de flûtes pour l,’Elevation
Dialogue (Agnus Dei II)
from Premier livre d’orgue (1699)

Buxtehude
Te deum laudamus BuxWV 218
Praeludium – Te deum laudamus – Pleni sunt coeli -Te martyrum – Tu devicto

Although Buxtehude and de Grigny were born 35 years apart, the music in this recital was composed at about the same time, around 1690/1700. They were composed for very different social, religious and musical settings, Buxtehude for Lutheran Lübeck in North Germany, and de Grigny for Catholic Reims in France. The organs they played were very different, but one of the joys of the English 18th-century-inspired Grosvenor Chapel organ is that it includes elements of both German and French instruments. Bach owned music by both composers and even added some of his own ideas to de Grigny’s Premier livre d’orgue. Bach’s youthful 200-mile walk to Lübeck to meet the ageing Buxtehude is well known.

The Praeludium und Fuga is one of the finest examples of Buxtehude’s use of the stylus phantasticus, an unrestrained multi-sectional form born in early 17th-century Italy. It alternates three toccata-like sections with two fugues. The first fugue, with its octave leaps, rests, and repeated notes, is in triple counterpoint, the two countersubjects covering the rests. It dissolves, in a flurry of notes, into an improvisatory sequence that concludes with a fugheta from which emerges the second fugue with a theme related to the first.

The Ciacona in e minor is from the Andreas Bach Buch, copied by Bach’s brother. The ground is initially heard in the pedals, but soon migrates to other voices as the structure becomes more relaxed. There is a theory, based on a mathematical analysis of the structure that the piece is linked to the Rosary.

It is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Nicolas de Grigny. He came from a family of organists of Reims Cathedral. His early death, aged 31, meant that his Premier livre d’orgue was his only publication. It includes settings for a complete organ mass and organ verses for five hymns. Although his music includes all the elements of the Classical French organ school, it is raised it into an elevated emotional and intellectual plane than the music of most of his contemporaries. The Recit de Tierce pour le Benedictus uses one of the most distinctive solo sounds of the French organ. It is followed by the Dialogue de flûtes pour l’Elevation, the most sacred part of the Mass. The powerful Dialogue is intended for a four-manual organ, using the powerful reeds of the Grands jeux and Petitjeux as well as the Cornet separé and Echo.

Buxtehude’s monumental setting of the ancient hymn of praise Te Deum laudamus is his longest and most complex work. It is in the stylus phantasticus, its five movements each further sub-divided, and uses a wide variety of musical textures. The Praeludium includes a mini fugue within free sections. Te Deum laudamus sounds the chant theme in long notes in the alto, treble, tenor and bass. An interlude leads to a setting of the second part of the chant. The Pleni sunt coeli chant is treated to a typical North German chorale fantasia, with echo passages. Te martyrum is a duo above the theme in the pedals. The triumphant Tu devicto is set as a quadruple fugue, each phrase of the chant having three countersubjects. The coda sets the final chant above a dramatic free improvisatory figuration.
© Andrew Benson-Wilson 2022

Andrew Benson-Wilson
specialises in the performance of early organ music, ranging from 14th-century manuscripts to the late Classical period. His playing is informed by experience of historic organs, understanding of period performance techniques and several internationally renowned teachers. The first of his two CDs of the complete Tallis organ works was Gramophone Magazine ‘Record of the Month’. The Organists’ Review commented that his “understanding of the historic English organ and its idiom is thorough, and the beautifully articulated, contoured result here is sufficient reason for hearing this disk. He is a player of authority in this period of keyboard music”.

Andrew’s concerts have ranged from the enormous 1642 Festorgel in Klosterneuburg Abbey in Austria to a tiny 1668 chamber organ in a medieval castle in Croatia, via St John’s, Smith Square. According to one reviewer, his St John’s, Smith Square recital was “one of the most rewarding organ recitals heard in London in years – an enthralling experience”. Other concerts include return visits to the 1723 Hildebrandt organ in Störmthal, Leipzig (where Bach gave the opening recital) and the famous 1558 Ebert organ in Innsbruck’s Hofkirche.

Andrew’s little book “The Performance of Early Organ Music” is used as a required text in a number of Universities. After 20 years as the principal reviewer for Early Music Review magazine, Andrew now reviews on his own website: andrewbensonwilson.org.

Andrew’s next London recital is on Monday 24 October at 7.30 in the brilliantly restored Christ Church, Spitalfields. The 1735 Richard Bridge organ is by far the most important 18th-century organ in the UK. For a long time, it was the largest organ in the UK. It was superbly restored in 2015 by William Drake. The music will explore some of the extraordinary range of organ music from the Gothic period up to the late 17th century.

Andrew Benson-Wilson – two Baroque giants

Two Baroque Giants – Buxtehude & de Grigny
Andrew Benson-Wilson, organ
The Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA
Tuesday 9 August 2020, 1:10

Music by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703).

Although Buxtehude and de Grigny were born 35 years apart, the music played in this recital was composed at about the same time, around 1690/1700. They were composed for very different social, religious and musical settings, Buxtehude for Lutheran Lübeck, North Germany, and de Grigny for Catholic Reims, France. The organs they played were also very different, but one of the joys of English 17th/18th organs is that they include elements of both the German and the French instruments.

The overriding figure in the music of these two is JS Bach. He knew their music and owned manuscripts of both composers, even adding some of his own ideas to de Grigny’s 1699 Premier livre d’orgue. Bach’s youthful walk to Lübeck to hear the ageing Buxtehude is well known.

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Buxtehude: Trio Sonatas Op.2

Buxtehude: Trio Sonatas Op.2
Arcangelo
Alpha Classics ALPHA738. 71’25

cover

This is the second recording of Buxtehude Trio Sonatas from Arcangelo (Sophie Gent, Jonathan Manson, Thomas Dunford and Jonathan Cohen). Their early Opus 1 disc is on ALPHA 367. The second set of Trio Sonatas was published in 1696. As with the first, it demonstrates the wide range of international influences in Lübeck at the time.

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Bachs Mentoren

Bachs Mentoren (Bach’s Mentors)
Peter Waldner

Tastenfreuden 4. 75’16

This recording was self-pubished by Peter Waldner in 2012 as part of his Tastenfreuden series but has only just been sent to me for review. It includes music by the North German composers Buxtehude, Reincken and Bõhm, noted as Bach’s “mentors”, played on harpsichord, octave spinet and muselar. The word “mentor” might a little wide of the mark, as there is no evidence any of these three musicians actually taught the young Bach, although he was certainly strongly influenced by them in his early years.

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Solarium

Maxime Denuc: Solarium
Cindy Castillo, organ
VLEKD31   94’36

Solarium is a piece for organ, first performed by Cindy Castello in l’église du Gesu, Toulouse during the 2019 Électro Alternativ festival. It is an hour-and-a-half organ piece intended for “… that period of slack that follows the frenzy of a techno-fuelled night” and took place at 10am on a Sunday morning as an “after-party”. I am not sure that many organists get up to frenzied techno-fuelled nights, but there is much here for organists to appreciate, not least the extraordinary sounds that a traditional pipe organ can produce, as well as anybody interested in the techno world of ambient minimalist music. Continue reading

Vox Luminis: Dixit Dominus

Dixit Dominus
Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier
St John’s, Smith Square, 18 December 2019

Attrib. Buxtehude? Magnificat BuxWV Anhang 1
Bach Nun komm der heiden Heiland BWV 61
Handel Dixit Dominus HWV 232

With the exception of Bach’s Advent cantata Nun komm der heiden Heiland, this was a St John’s, Smith Square Christmas Festival event refreshingly devoid of any specific reference to Christmas. The renown Belgian group Vox Luminis and their director, Lionel Meunier, made a very welcome return for a performance of music from German composers of the 17th and early 18th century, each writing in different styles and for different audiences. Continue reading

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Reincken

Mayfair Organ Concerts
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays 
Johann Adam Reincken (1643-1722)
St George’s, Hanover Square, London W1S 1FX
30 April 2019 @ 1:10pm 

Toccata in G (Andreas Bach Book)
Toccata in A (Anon?)
Chorale Fantasia: An Wasserflüssen Babylon

Johann Adam Reincken was one of the most important and influential 17th-century North German organist-composers. He forms a unique link between the Sweelinck influenced organists of the earlier part of the century and JS Bach. Little is known about his life, and very few of his organ compositions survive. He was born to North German parents in Deventer in The Netherlands around 1643. An earlier supposed birthdate of 1623 is now accepted as incorrect. He moved to Hamburg in 1654, aged just 11, to study with the famed organist of the Katharinenkirche, Heinrich Scheidemann, a pupil of Sweelinck. After a brief return to Deventer, he came back to Hamburg in 1659 as Scheidemann’s assistant, replacing him as organist in 1663 on Scheidemann’s death. As was the custom of the time, he married one of Scheidemann’s daughters in 1665. He remained there for 60 years until his death in 1722. As well as his church duties, he co-founded the Hamburg Opera and was involved in the city’s musical life. He is known from two pictures dating from around 1674; the portrait painting and the now well-known ‘Musical Company’ painting by Johannes Voorhout.

Reincken. Kniller, c1674.jpg

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Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri

Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri
The Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Orpheus Britannicus, Newe Vialles, Andrew Arthur (director)
Resonus Classics RES10238. 70’17

Buxtehude’s cycle of seven cantatas, under the collective title of Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima, is one of the finest sacred vocal works of the 17th-century. It reflects on The holy limbs of our suffering Jesus, using texts from the Medieval hymn Salve mundi salutare, probably written by Arnulf of Leuven (d1250). Each cantata focusses on a specific part of Christ’s crucified body: feet, knees, hands, sides, breast, heart, and face, adding to the hymn text words from the Bible. It is composed for five solo singers, who usually also make up a chorus although, in this case, the chorus is the 24-strong Chapel Choir of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, conducted by Andrew Arthur, the Director of Music at Trinty Hall. They are accompanied by the College’s professional period ensemble Ensemble-in-Residence, Orpheus Britannicus (founded by Andrew Arthur), with the five viols of Newe Vialles (directed by Henrik Persson and Caroline Ritchie) playing for the sensuous sixth cantata, Ad cor (To The Heart). Continue reading

Baroque at the Edge

Baroque at the Edge
Saint James, Clerkenwell, St Luke’s Old Street
Saturday 6 January 2019

Imagine.jpg

With a headline of “Imagine if Bach was a jazzman, Purcell a folk-fiddler, or Monteverdi a minimalist…”, the second annual Baroque at the Edge festival made a fitting opening to the 2019 London musical calendar. Founded in 2018 by Lindsay Kemp and Lucy Bending, the team behind the London Festival of Baroque Music and the earlier Lufthansa Festival, the festival invites musicians with a classical, jazz, or folk background to “take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them” with the promise of “No rules, no programme notes, no lectures: all you need to know is how to listen”. The festival was spread over a three day weekend, with most of the events taking place on Saturday, 6 January, after a Friday night piano recital and before a Sunday family folksinging workshop and linked lunchtime concert. Continue reading

Mysterien-Kantaten

Mysterien-Kantaten
Ensemble Les Surprises
Ambronay Editions AMY051. 58’16

Mysterien Kantaten

Music by Pachelbel, Buxtehude, Bruhns, Bernhard, Scheidemann, Reincken

Taking its title from Biber’s Mystery Sonatas (although not actually including any of those pieces), this recording from Les Surprises delves into the mysteries of life and death with an exploration of late 17th-century North German sacred cantatas of Buxtehude, Bruhns and Bernhard. What was particularly interesting for me to listen to, as an organist, were the arrangements of two well-known ground bass organ pieces for instruments. The CD opens with a version of Pachelbel’s Ciaconna in F minor, based on a repeated descending four-note bass line. We are then plunged straight into the world of death, with the Klag Lied, Buxtehude’s extraordinarily moving reflection on the death of his own father, whose last days were spent in his son’s home in Lübeck. It is followed by Nicolaus Bruhns’ cantata for bass voice meditation on death, De profundis clamavi and the second of the instrumental arrangements of organ pieces, Buxtehude’s Passacaglia in D minor. The programme notes (perhaps rather too unquestionably) the admittedly rather good theory that this is based on the lunar month and the phases of the moon, with its 28 variations and four sections, each with a distinctively different mood.  Continue reading

Buxtehude: Abendmusiken

Buxtehude: Abendmusiken
Vox Luminis, Ensemble Masques, Lionel Meunier
Alpha:
ALPHA287. 85’17

Gott hilf mir, denn das Wasser geht mir bis an die Seele, BuxWV 34
Befiehl dem Engel, dass er komm, BuxWV 10
Jesu, meine Freude, BuxWV 60
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, BuxWV 41
Jesu, meines lebens leben, BuxWV 62
Trio Sonatas, BuxWV 255, 267, and 272

Although the CD publicity and Peter Wollny’s programme essay credit Dietrich Buxtehude with the Lübeck Abendmusik, the famous series of Thursday early evening concerts during the five weeks leading up to Christmas were in fact founded by Buxtehude’s predecessor as organist of the Marienkirche, Franz Tunder. He died in 1667, so the roots of the evening entertainment funded by local businessmen, and free to all-comers, are well before the music heard on the recording, most of which comes from Buxtehude’s later years. As organist, rather than Kantor, of the Marienkirche, Buxtehude was not required to compose music for the weekly liturgy, so he was able to devote more time to his compositions, independent of the pressure of service writing. This resulted in a magnificent series of vocal, choral and instrumental works, much of which is still not as well known as his highly influential organ music. It was these Abendmusik concerts that attracted the young Bach and Handel to Lübeck, as well as the prospect of succeeding Buxtehude, even with the requirement to marry his sole unmarried daughter, by then considerably older than either of them. Incidentally, Buxtehude had married his predecessor’s daughter, as had Tunder and many other generations of Marienkirche organists.

This impressive recording helps to reset that balance with a well-chosen sequence of vocal and instrumental pieces, including three of his beautifully expressive Trio Sonatas. Although not specifically intended for service use, Buxtehude’s cantatas offer an insight into the Pietist sentiments of 17th-century Lübeck, with an exquisitely profound underlying sensitivity and sensuousness. Continue reading

London Handel Festival (LHF): Guildhall Cantata Ensemble

Guildhall Cantata Ensemble
London Handel Festival
St George’s, Hanover Square. 21 March 2018

This is the first of a series of forthcoming reviews of the 2018 London Handel Festival (LHF).  The theme for this year is ‘Handel in London’ and is exploring Handel’s musical output as well as his wider entrepreneurial and philanthropic life in Georgian society. The wide-ranging month-long programme of concerts and events includes anniversary performances of two works that Handel composed during his 1718 residency at the future Duke of Chandos’s mansion at Cannons: Acis and Galatea and Esther. It has been traditional for many years to include lunchtime events by student and younger groups of musicians. The first of this year’s such recitals took place in the usual base for LHF events, Handel’s own church of St George’s, Hanover Square. It featured students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, with their programme of music by Buxtehude and Handel. Continue reading

Splendour

Splendour
Golden Age of North German Organ Music
Organ Music & Vocal Works by Buxtehude, Hassler, Praetorius & Scheidemann
Kei Koito, Il Canto di Orfeo
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, 88985437672. 73’15

This CD features a comprehensive survey of the important 17th -century North German School of organist composers, broadly covering the generations of composers between the Hamburg Sweelinck pupils and Buxtehude. The latter’s predecessor in Lübeck, Franz Tunder, opens the programme with his ebulient Praeludium in g. The programme then broadly follows the format of a organ chorale prelude followed by the relevent chorale, sung by the Italian choir Il Canto di Orfeo, directed by Gianluca Capuano. The organ used is the well-known 1624 Hans Scherer instrument in the Stephanskirche, Tangermünde, Germany, a splendid example of the early 17th-century North German organ building tradition. It’s impressive range of colours and textures are explored to the full in Kei Koito’s choice of registrations. 
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The Art of Heinrich Scheidemann

The Art of Heinrich Scheidemann
Le Concert Brisé, William Dongois
Accent ACC24302. 68′ 

This is an important recording as it brings the music of Heinrich Scheidemann to a wider audience than just organists. Unfortunately, many organists are not aware enough of the organ compositions of this major North German composer of the early Baroque era. He was one of the most important pupils of Sweelinck in Amsterdam in the early 17th century, moving on (as did several other Sweelinck pupils) to an important organist post in Hamburg; at the enormous organ of Hamburg’s Catharinenkirche, recently restored back to the time of Bach’s famous visit, but still containing many pipes from Scheidemann’s time. He was part of an extraordinary tradition of North German organ playing that led to Buxtehude and, ultimately, the young Bach. It seems that the only surviving Scheidemann pieces are for organ, plus a few for a stringed keyboard. So this instrumental interpretation, although not without a number of issues for the purist, is a very welcome addition to the many CDs of Scheidemann’s organ music.  Continue reading

Jacob Praetorius and Heinrich Scheidemann

Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London
Tuesday 17 October, 1:10

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays
Jacob Praetorius and Heinrich Scheidemann

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Andrew Benson-Wilson’s exploration of the 17th century North German organ repertoire continues with a recital of music by two influential pupils of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the famous ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’. Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651) and Heinrich Scheidemann (c1595-1663) both went on to prestigious posts in Hamburg churches. Praetorius taught Weckmann and Scheidemann taught Reinken and, possibly, Buxtehude.

Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651)
Praeambulum in F
Von Allen Menachem abgewandt

Heinrich Scheidemann (c1596-1663)
Praeludium in F
Magnificat Sexti Toni
Alleluja Laudem dicite Deo nostro

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Musica Poetica: Tunder World

Tunder World: The Baroque Keyboard
Musica Poetica: Simon Lloyd & Oliver John Ruthven, organs
St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, 27 April 2017

Amongst their other musical activities, the enterprising young group, Musica Poetica, are currently running a year-long monthly series of lunchtime concerts based on the music and times of Franz Tunder (1614-1667) the anniversary of whose death is this year, just three years after the anniversary of his birth. For this concert, they focussed on the keyboard music of Tunder, together with his possible teacher, Frescobaldi, his contemporary Froberger (who also died in 1667) and his successor as organist of the Lübeck Marienkirche, as his son-in-law, Dieterich Buxtehude.  Continue reading

Scheidemann: Magnificats

Heinrich Scheidemann (c1595-1663)
Complete Organ Works
Vol 2: Magnificat Cycles (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
128 pages  • ISMN: 979-0-001-13660-0 • Softbound
Schott Music
 ED 9729

8 Magnificat Cycles; Anonymus: Chorale Fantasy (Magnificat VIII.toni)

Complete Organ WorksHeinrich Scheidemann is one of the most interesting of the students of Sweelinck, the Amsterdam organist and teacher, who influenced many organists, particularly in Hamburg. His pupils helped to develop the important  17th century North German school of organ playing and composition that led eventually to Dietrich Buxtehude, a composer that the young Bach admired and travelled to hear. In this period the organists in the Hamburg churches had almost as much status as the preachers, and were expected to elaborate musically on many aspects of the Lutheran service. Scheidemann was organist of the Catherinenkirche in Hamburg. He taught his successor there, Reincken, and also possibly Buxtehude. Continue reading

Buxtehude: Complete Organ Works Vol 1

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Complete Organ Works
Vol 1: Compositions Pedaliter
 – 18 Praeludia BuxWV 136-153 (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
120 pages • 23 x 30.5 cm • 455 g • ISMN: 979-0-004-16866-0 • Softbound
Edition Breitkopf EB 6661

Dietrich Buxtehude holds a special place in the hearts of most organists, although this is occasionally because he is the only pre-Bach German composer that they are aware of. But, despite many years of musicological research and publications, he still remains a somewhat enigmatic composer. There is still no agreement as to his birth date or place, and what his name really was. He seems to have been born  in Helsingborg (in present day Sweden, but then part of Denmark)  as Diderich, but later changed the spelling from the Danish to a more Germanic Dietrich (or Dieterich). His surname also appears in several versions, including Box de Hude.

Producing modern editions of his organ music is fraught with potential difficulties, not least because no surviving copies of Buxtehude’s autograph copies have been found. Continue reading

Grosvenor Chapel: Weckmann (b1616)

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Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair , London W1K 2PA
1 November 2016, 1:10-1:50

Matthias Weckmann  (1616-1674)

In the last of his three recitals of the organ music of Matthias Weckmann (in his anniversary year), Andrew Benson-Wilson plays the William Drake organ in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair in a programme of a Praeludium, Toccata, Canzon, Fantasia and two contrasting chorale-based works.

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Varietas: Jean-Christophe Dijoux

Varietas
Jean-Christophe Dijoux, harpsichord
Geniun GEN 16420. 81’31

Works by Handel, Buxtehude, Böhm, JS and CPE Bach, Mattheson, and Telemann

Jean-Christophe Dijoux was the winner of the harpsichord category of the 2014 Leipzig International Bach Competition, and this CD stems from that success.  Born in Réunion, Dijoux studied in Paris, Freiburg and Basel, spent a year touring with the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO), and won awards for continuo playing at the 2013 International Telemann Competition. Using two harpsichords (built by Matthias Kramer of Berlin after 1701 and 1754 originals) and four different temperaments, he explores music with a connection to Hamburg. Both instruments have 16’ stops, adding an impressive gravitas to the sound.

Improvisation is at the heart of music of this period, and very clearly also of Dijoux’s own playing style. That is evident from Continue reading

Buxtehude & Tunder

Buxtehude & Tunder
Musica Poetica,

St Michael’s Church, South Grove, Highgate. 20 February 2016

Buxtehude: Laudate pueri Dominum, Membra Jesu Nostri; Tunder: Dominus illuminatio mea

One of a number of promising young early music groups formed in recent years is Musica Poetica, formed in 2010 by four students of the Royal Academy of Music, but now expandable into a range of sizes to suit the repertoire and led by Oliver John Ruthven. They have reinforced their North London base (they have been part of Hampstead Garden Opera for some time) by starting a series of contrasting concerts WP_20160220_18_53_05_Pro.jpg(every other month) at St Michael’s, on South Grove, Highgate. They opened the series with a concert of music from the North German masters, Dietrich Buxtehude and his predecessor at the Lübeck Marienkirche (and father-in-law), Franz Tunder. Tunder is usually unfairly overlooked in favour of his successor, but it was he who started the famous series of Lübeck Abendmusik concerts that traditionally took place on the five Sundays before Christmas every year; a tradition that lasted until 1810. They (and the then aging Buxtehude) famously attracted the young Bach in 1705. Continue reading

Rosenkranzsonaten 1

Rosenkranzsonaten 1
Anne Schumann (violin), Sebastian Knebel (organ)
Querstand VKJK 1423. 40’24

B
iber Rosenkranzsonaten I-V; Buxtehude: Passacaglia in d (BuxWV161)

Buxtehude Biber Rosenkranzsonaten I Anne Schumann Sebastian Knebel QuerstandFor this 3-CD series of the Biber Rosenkranzsonaten, Anne Schumann and Sebastian Knebel have divided the work into its three sections (the ‘joyful’, ‘sorrowful’ and ‘glorious’ mysteries) and have chosen a different recording venue for each section, based on the organ in each church – a commendable approach, not least because we hear a full size church organ used as a continuo instrument, rather than the silly little box organs so often heard. Continue reading

Bound to Nothing: The German Stylus Fantasticus

Bound to Nothing: The German Stylus Fantasticus
Fantasticus
Resonus. RES10156. 71’15

Buxtehude: Sonata in A Major (Op2/5), Praeludium in g (BuxWV 163);
Erlebach: Sonata II in E Minor, Sonata III in A;
Krieger: Sonata X in A,
JJ Walther: Cappricio in C; Kühnel: Sonata VIII in A.

I think I would be rather nervous of meeting Bach face to face, but Buxtehude seems to have been an altogether more companionable and jovial chap; something very ably demonstrated in the opening Sonata in A on this CD. Buxtehude is one of the key composers in the Stylus phantasticus – as it is usually spelt, unless your group’s name happens to be Fantasticus. With its roots in the music of Frescobaldi and the like in early 17th century Italy, the style was taken up with gusto by many later German composers. Written references to the style are rare, although Kircher in 1650 and Mattheson around 1740 (well after it had declined in popularity) both had a go at describing it – as did Frescobaldi. Mattheson referred to it as “most free and unrestrained … now swift, now hesitating … without theme or subject that are worked out”. The latter is evident in fugal passages that often start off correctly enough, but then fizzle out in a dazzling display of figuration – a common aspect of Buxtehude’s organ works, here represented by the G minor Praeludium, played on the harpsichord. Continue reading