Notes and Editorial Reviews
Toccatas and Fugues: in F,
Preludes: in a,
Chaconne in e,
Te Deum Laudemus,
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen,
BuxWV 220 & 221.
Nimm von uns, Herr,
Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
Magnificat Primi Toni,
Masaaki Suzuki (org)
BIS 1809 (SACD: 68: 48)
Here is a recital of Buxtehude organ works played by the esteemed Japanese organist Masaaki Suzuki on two organs whose history extends back to the composer’s own lifetime, the Wilde-Schnitger organ of St. Jacobi Church, Lüdingworth (BuxWV 196, 203, and 207), and the Klapmeyer organ of St. Nicolai Church, Altenbruch. Both organs were modernized as much as was possible at that time under Buxtehude’s supervision. Both use meantone temperament pitched at A=478 Hz. They are surprisingly colorful-sounding for Baroque organs of that vintage, and Suzuki brings out a great deal of their color in his playing, though the Lüdingworth organ sounds considerably more constricted in this respect. Historically informed listeners will thus be appeased by his choice of instruments, while the recording will amply satisfy those who want somewhat colorful playing.
My overall impression of Suzuki’s playing is that he maintains a stricter feeling for rhythm and tempo than is often inherent in Buxtehude’s music; these performances lack some of the playful rubato and rallentandos of Lars-Ulrik Mortensen’s marvelous recordings of this composer’s harpsichord music on Naxos. Suzuki’s playing style is very much in line with that of his teacher, Ton Koopman. Nevertheless, the readings are marvelously contoured and more than adequately convey some of the fantastic elements of Buxtehude’s discursive musical mind. I have, eventually, reached a point where a few of Mendelssohn’s pieces fail to impress me with the freshness and originality of most of his other music, but I’ve not yet reached that point with Buxtehude. This is one composer whose musical mind seemed always to be in the realm of maximum imagination and least pedantry. His way of playing with rhythm and harmonics, often in an integrated pattern reminiscent of the best jazz musicians, makes his music sound continually fresh and invigorating. Just listen to the swirling triplet patterns in his D-Minor Fugue if you have any doubts!
One thing about Buxtehude that, I think, very few people tend to realize is how far
in time he went. So many of his later works have become classics (and rightly so) that we forget that he made his debut as an organist in
and was called to be principal organist in Lübeck in 1668. This would make his first compositions roughly contemporary with the late works of Claudio Monteverdi—another forward-looking composer of that time. It is a sobering thought. I was also struck by the remarkable similarities (and slight differences) of Buxtehude’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to the much more famous one by Bach. No question about it, Bach was “pulling a Buxtehude” when he wrote his own.
Although I personally prefer the approach of organist Christopher Herrick on Hyperion, these are splendid performances that will not disappoint. BIS has wisely engineered this disc so that it is compatible with both conventional CD players and SACD surround sound.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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