Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Buxtehude, Volume One

Dieterich Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ, Volume 1
Hans Davidsson, organ
The GOArt North German organ, Goteborg University, Goteborg, Sweden
Loft Recordings LRCD 1054


My first exposure to Hans Davidsson's projected complete Buxtehude cycle on this fabulous GOArt instrument (Volume 2, here) was a paradigm shift for me, one of those rare moments where something old and familiar is shown in a really new light. Having our eyes and ears thus opened to this new world, here's a further opportunity to wander around and absorb the newness of the old, and to continue our recalibration of Buxtehude's work. As with the other volume, this release mixes shorter, chorale-based works with more freestyle Praeludia and Toccatas.

(The extra notes required by quarter comma meantone are visible in this picture.)

The CD booklet is a bit more complete than that of Volume 2 (though still, rather frustratingly, devoid of a stoplist) and all these GOArt CDs are very generously allotted--this two-disc set runs to just shy of three hours total length spread over 35 tracks. I find myself more drawn to Dr. Davidsson's interpretations than I felt at first listening. My initial impression was that he was a mite stayed or lacking in energy; but given my penchant for things not being rushed, I'm coming to think he's on exactly the right interpretive track.

And again, the real star here is this magnificent organ, which the generous program lets Davidsson explore fully. The individual characters of the stops and different key signatures within quarter comma meantone tuning make for a larger and more diverse tonal world than we experience with the familiar equal temperament. Any given piece might be played in several different keys (and some exist in Buxtehude's hand in more than one), resulting, really, in several different pieces--the sonic character can be that different.

The acoustic is excellent for organ music--reverberant, but not stone-cathedral big--and the sound-capturing of the recording is first-rate. I eagerly look forward to the coming releases in the cycle, and indeed anything recorded on this instrument.


Zazu said...

Good post.

wunelle said...

Thanks. I've been listening to these again lately, and marveling anew at the convergence of talents.

I'm thinking there must be one more release in the works--Buxtehude's opus runs to about 90 numbers--so I'm waiting eagerly for the next release.

David King said...

Thanks. I've been thinking of buying the Hans Davidsson complete Buxtehude. I think you've pushed me in favor of it.