Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
Organ Music Vol. 4
Praeludium in D minor, BuxWV 140 [7:22]
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist, BuxWV 208 [2:48]
Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BuxWV 200 [3:42]
Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiss gar wohl, BuxWV 193 [3:38]
Canzonetta in G, BuxWV 171 [2:26]
Praeludium in E major, BuxWV 141 [6:55]
Ach Gott und Herr, BuxWV 177 (Versions 1 & 2) [2:49]
Danket dem Herrn, BuxWV 181 (Versions 1-3) [3:38]
Canzonetta in D minor, BuxWV 168 [4:20]
Praeludium in E minor, BuxWV 143 [5:53]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 189 [2:07]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211 [1:53]
Puer natus in Bethlehem, BuxWV 217 [1:13]
Canzonetta in E minor, BuxWV 169 [3:01]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich, BuxWV 202 [1:20]
Es spricht der unweisen Mund wohl, BuxWV 187 [3:09]
Toccata in D minor, BuxWV 155 [7:55]
Craig Cramer, organ
Recorded on the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Organ,
Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, 31 August 2003
Naxos 8.557195 [64:09]
Comparisons: Saorgin/Harmonia Mundi, Bryndorf/Dacapo
Naxos initiated its excellent Buxtehude organ series in 2001 and has
now reached the 4th volume. To date, each volume has been performed by
a different organist, and only modern organs are employed. This approach
differs strongly with Dacapo's on-going Buxtehude series where Bine
Bryndorf is the sole organist and plays on historical instruments.
Craig Cramer continues the high quality of the previous Naxos volumes.
Cramer is an American organist who earned the Doctor of Musical Arts
degree in organ performance from the Eastman School of Music and is
currently a Professor of Organ at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
He has performed throughout the United States and Europe, his discography
ranging from Bach on historical organs to 20th century fare.
A little historical perspective is in order. Buxtehude's organ music
represents the pinnacle of the "Stylus Phantasticus". In the early
1600's, composers such as Heinrich Scheidemann and Samuel Scheidt ushered
in a greater compositional freedom that deviated significantly from the
rigidity of the then-exisiting regimen. These freedoms were most prevalent
in the Praeludium and Toccata, two compositional types involving an
alternating pattern of 'free-form' sections framing multiple fugues.
Buxtehude perfected this new style, giving the 'free-form' sections an
expansiveness, variety of expression, and all-encompassing power surpassing
all previous composers.
On Cramer's program, we are offered four works in the 'free-form' style.
The remainder of the program consists of three Canzonetta and ten Chorales.
The Canzonetta is a contrapuntal work consisting of a series of fugues
displaying stretto, contrary motion, and inversion; rhythmic motion tends
to be lively, and the detail of musical lines illuminating. The Chorale
is based on religious text and conforms to the patterns established many
Leaving aside the Praeludium and Toccata tracks for the moment, Cramer's
performances are exceptional. He gives the Chorales a reverential
treatment, but the music never sags or becomes somber due to a fine
rhythmic vitality. Also, the registrations are absolutely delicious,
and the readings very comforting. Even more impressive is each Canzonetta
where Cramer displays a wonderful elasticity of expression and pacing.
Cramer is not as successful in the 'free-form' works that are best
played with great strength, drive, and excitement. I think it fair
to say that Cramer is somewhat polite in his interpretations; switch to
Saorgin or Bryndorf and the music soars with a sense of reckless abandon.
An additional detriment for Cramer is that the sonics are rather compressed.
Each musical line is drawn to the center of the soundstage, a condition
representing a significant obstacle to all-encompassing waves of sound.
The organ, built by Paul Fritts and Company in 1999, is a major highight
of the disc. It is a large 3-manual instrument constructed in baroque
fashion in Keller temperament and with 15 reed stops. Although not
historical, it is the next best thing. Cramer's registrations are not
listed, but the organ's specifications are in the CD booklet. I should
also relate that the booklet notes are splendid, offering excellent
descriptions of the different types of music on the disc.
Don's Conclusions: Volume 4 is a very fine recording. Yes, Cramer is
not a whirlwind in the 'free-form' works, but his rhythmic elasticity
and exceptional registrations do win the day. Given the low Naxos price,
I give the recording a hearty recommendation. As for alternatives, the
exceptional Saorgin box-set is unfortunately out of print at this time,
but the three volumes released so far in the Bine Bryndorf series are
readily available. The main consideration is that Buxtehude's organ
music is one of the glories of the Baroque period, and readers not
familiar with this body of works are advised to investigate it and reap
the tremendous rewards.
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