Notes and Editorial Reviews
In October 1705, the 20-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach, organist of the Bonifatiuskirche in Arnstadt, asked his superiors for a four-week-leave to go and listen to Buxtehude: a 400-km-journey on foot to Lübeck, where he attended the Abendmusiken at the Marienkirche. Four weeks became four months, and on his return, Bach was clapped in irons for several days for insubordination. After that, however, the superiors of the Bonifatiuskirche noticed that: ‘After this long journey, he could play astonishing chorale variations and would combine them with unknown harmonies to an extent that confused the faithful.’ Bach never left a record of whether he and the greatest organist of his day even met; perhaps the young man preferred to listen to Buxtehude in secret, silently, while the old man practised in the Marienkirche. Buxtehude’s music presents a unique blend of the North German organ school with influences from abroad such as the English virginalists and the Italian masters of more free-form genres such as the canzona and toccata. Such a unique, cosmopolitan voice evidently made a profound effect on the young Bach, whose horizons had hitherto been comparatively limited to the musicians and traditions of Saxony where he had grown up. Manuel Tomadin’s unique new recital imagines and stages this musical encounter and its ramifications. Some of Buxtehude’s grandest and boldest organ music is featured, including the D minor Passacaglia and the C major Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne, as well as a virtuosic set of chorale variations on Gelobet seist Du, Jesu Christ. As if in answer, Tomadin plays the brilliant early G major Fantasia with its toccata-like opening, a richly chromatic central Adagio and concluding fugue with a particularly demanding pedal part.