Profoundly pleasing. Another outstanding contribution to the repertoire.
Poor Buxtehude! In his excellent "Bach: Essays on His Life and Music" [ISBN-13: 978-0674059269] Christoph Wolff makes the point that Buxtehude is a much greater, more universally relevant, and certainly more influential composer than is usually accepted. He even takes Kerala J. Snyder gently to task for subtitling her book "Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck" [ISBN-13: 978-1580462532] as she does. He was so much more than an organist. Sadly the earlier composer's discography has still only fared a little better than was the case when Wolff was writing - almost twenty years ago.
At the head of whatRead more ought to be a veritable revival of Buxtehude - whose music, Wolff shows, comprises almost all genres current in the seventeenth century - is the series on Challenge directed by Ton Koopman. When complete, it will probably comprise in the region of two dozen CDs and CD sets; these will contain all the extant works. In the excellent booklet Koopman states that this is the final volume of the chamber music and that only a 'number of vocal challenges' remain. That in itself would be an amazing achievement. It ought to encourage us: there's a place for ambitious series like this in what is still a somewhat recherché area of the repertoire. That the music-making should be of such a high quality is what counts, though ... and it is! One of the first things you'll notice after you're struck by the just and positive response to the buoyancy, vivacity and delicately uplifting tenor of the music is its variety. These are substantial forward-paced pieces though none lasts less than eight and a half minutes.
Buxtehude varies texture, melody, rhythm and tempi - often within one movement … as in the opening of the delicious Op. 2, nr. 3 (BuxWV 261) [tr.3]. His ideas never run on the spot and never seek a dull centre. At the same time, in the hands of these accomplished experts, no nuance is overlooked; no subtlety underplayed. The music sounds as natural, free-flowing and inevitable in direction as any by Bach.
In the same booklet with this CD, Wolff leads us through the publishing history of these works; sadly he has to allude to possibly lost works. Interestingly, the present sonatas were intended for use both liturgically and as secular entertainment ('zur Kirchen und Tafel-Music'). Published in 1696 this Op. 2 set is as stimulating, adventurous and deeply satisfying a collection of small-scale sonatas as you could wish for. While in places Corelli's influence is unmistakable, they are firmly in the north German idiom; pure Buxtehude. The composer's inventiveness, facility with melody and the quasi-improvisatory and delightfully exciting
stylus phantasticus are matched by technical brilliance. There’s a fully expressive command of textures which the strings and plucked instruments can each make. These sound beautiful and compelling together - and in 'conversation' such as towards the beginning of the 3/4
poco adagio of the sonata in C, BuxWV 262 [tr.4].
As has been remarked in earlier reviews of this cycle, Koopman seems to have 'loosened' a little in his playing style as he has moved deeper into the repertoire. There is almost a 'swing' - certainly a gentle lilt - to some of the movements. The players bow and pluck in a persuasive unison. Their aim is wholly interdependent: to expose the most from this marvellous music. They succeed in every regard.
Whether or not the musicians are helped by the fact that these sonatas are constructed as multi-sectional units, rather than from discrete movements is hard to say but it seems likely. The architecture is clearer. One senses that the momentum which is generated so amply and which so positively reinforces the impact of this music would have been brought out of any format, though - so gifted and in tune with the idiom are the four musicians here, and so extremely well do they play together.
The asymmetrical dynamics employed almost throughout by Buxtehude surely adds to our interest. Again Manson, Pandolfo, Fentross and Koopman - all of whom have featured on earlier releases in the Challenge series - are on top of their form. They clearly love the music. They have the will, technique, interpretative impetus and precision to offer an analogous response to the listener.
Anyone already collecting the series will want to buy this CD immediately. However its appeal is surely much wider: to have heard the name of Buxtehude and paid it lip service is not enough. Jump in here and see what's so special about his creativity and originality. Here is a composer who is able to see invention through to profoundly pleasing results.
As has been the case throughout the series, the acoustic is entirely responsive. There is atmosphere without undue addition. The strings sound rich and approachable, the harpsichord and lute contained and constant. In the useful biographies in the booklet that of Pandolfo describes his belief that ancient music can be a 'powerful inspiration' for the future. It's hard not to be in accord when music-making of this quality, weight and insight is made. It’s all done without fuss or undue emphasis on - a still much needed - advocacy for an overlooked genius. Do not miss this issue.
-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
This is the third chamber music disc and the 15th installment of the complete music of Danish-German composer Dieterich Buxtehude released under the auspices of the Buxtehude Society. The leading figure is venerable keyboardist Ton Koopman, here teaming up with Catherine Manson on violin and Paolo Pandolfo on viola da gamba. The latter participates both as soloist and as continuo partner (along with Mike Fentross on the lute) in this second set of published sonatas. The op. 2 appeared in 1696, but three of the pieces (BuxWV 266, 269, 271) were probably reissues from a now-lost set of 1684, as they are true trio sonatas in which the viola da gamba is an equal partner with the violin. The remainder, probably written for an Abendmusik church performance, a sort of prototype of the public concert, are duo sonatas for violin and continuo. All of these conform to the late 17th-century North German chamber genre, having generally four movements—though BuxWV 259, 263, and 264 have several additional smaller ones—arranged in slow-fast pairs.
These seven works are not unknown, having been recorded relatively often over the past decade or so, both as a set and individually. For the former, one can point to the Purcell Quartet’s 2012 outing on Chandos, or the extremely deft rendition by L’estravagante on Artis in 2008. Even Naxos has gotten into the act with a nice performance by John Holloway, Lars Mortensen, and Jaap ter Linden in 2005. All of these are fine performances, as James A. Altena pointed out in his review in Fanfare 35:6. I concur with his assessment, which could also be applied to the present disc. The playing is extremely polished and nicely nuanced. The addition of the organ (with its flute stop) in the D Major is particularly effective, and in the same work the 10 variations are done with skill and taste. The performers blend well together, are in tune, and play the works with a good sense of Buxtehude’s style. The viola da gamba is especially resonant, while Manson’s violin playing is skillful and without harshness in the sometimes gnarly double- and triple-stopped passages. In the Adagios, such as the plaintive and mysterious opening movement of the G-Minor sonata, the strings work together with a nicely hollow organ registration to create an air of solemn contemplation. It is clear that these are not just busywork or lightly tossed-off pieces, but rather a highly varied and creative compendium of musical-rhetorical devices.
We now have at least four well-performed and expressively interpreted examples of the op. 2. All would grace any collection (and of course Buxtehude aficionados will want all four), but this particular smooth and disciplined interpretation will probably become the standard model against which others will be compared.
Bach was a fanNovember 3, 2012By Terry Seaman (Maple Valley, WA)See All My Reviews"Bach was a fan, that's good enough for me! So, I got some of Buxtehude's organ works and liked them alot. I'd got a copy of Yo-Yo Ma's Baroque disc and liked it alot and it introduced me to Ton Koopman who I also liked alot. So then I found out about Ton Koopman's recordings of Buxtehude's chamber music, bought volume 3, and since then volumes 1 & 2. These are terrific recordings. If there are more volumes of the chamber music I'm gonna buy 'em!"Report Abuse