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The Legendary Danish Organist Finn Viderø - Volume 3
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637/8-1707)
Finn Viderø (organ)
rec. April 8-14, 1958, Sankt Johannes Church, Vejle, Denmark (CD 1); September 1957, Sorø Church, Denmark (CD 2)
DANACORD DACOCD795/6 [76:29 + 75:54]

Nearly thirty years ago, writing in The Gramophone, August 1989, Marc Rochester described Dietrich Buxtehude’s enigmatic position in the history of German music as consisting of two fundamental opinions about the composer’s status, the first being that if J.S. Bach had not venerated him, Buxtehude would have sunk into oblivion and the second that if it were not for ‘the towering genius of Bach’, Buxtehude would have been regarded as the greatest composer of that era. Clearly both interpretations are an oversimplification, but we get the drift. It is enough that listeners have such a wonderful treasury of music from Buxtehude’s pen.

It is not the purpose of this review to examine Buxtehude’s impact on Bach, but it is fair to say that Buxtehude did influence his organ technique, his understanding of the instrument’s mechanics and, in compositional terms, the preludes and fugues as well as the accompanied chorale preludes. The younger composer was aged 20 and the elder was 68 years old; it is well-known that in 1705 Bach walked some 200 miles from Arnstadt to hear Buxtehude’s performances.

A few words to put Dietrich Buxtehude into context: he may have been born in the Helsingborg in what is now Sweden in either 1637 or 1638 or it might have been Oldesloe in The Duchy of Holstein which is now Germany. Often regarded as one of the fathers of German organ composition and performance, he also wrote much choral music as well as keyboard music for harpsichord.

After eight years as organist in Elsinore (1660-68), he was appointed to the Marienkirche in Lübeck, one of the most prestigious posts in Germany at that time. Many musicians made long journeys to this place of musical pilgrimage, especially to hear the ‘Abendmusik’ (Evening Music) concerts, which were held annually on five Sundays between Martinmas and Christmas and included choral, keyboard and chamber music by Buxtehude and his contemporaries.

Buxtehude’s organ music includes toccatas, preludes and fugues, chaconnes and music based on German chorales or hymns. One important work was his Passacaglia in D minor (presented on this disc) which was to have a major impact on Bach’s masterly Passacaglia in C minor.

Buxtehude died in the northern German city of Lubeck on 9 May 1707, aged around seventy.

This new release from Danacord features the contents of four LPs issued in 1957 and released to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death. They won the Grand Prix de l’ Académie du Disque Français in 1959.

I am not a ‘student’ of Buxtehude; however, I do know the modern recordings of the Complete Organ Works made by Simone Stella in 2012 on the Brilliant Classics label. There are several other ‘complete’ editions of the organ music including those by Christopher Herrick, Harald Vogel and Tom Koopman. In 2000, the present record company Danacord issued an edition played by Inge Bonnerup.

Buxtehude is known to have composed around 89 works for organ. The present two-CD set includes 28 pieces covering the entire range of his organ music – chorale preludes, toccatas, preludes, canzonas and chaconnes - so it is a goodly selection and makes an ideal introduction to this music.

These works are played on the organ of the monastery church of Sorø Church, Denmark and the Sankt Johannes Kirke, Vejle.  This latter is a 3 manual Th. Frobenius organ built in 1956, so this present recording must be one of the first made on that instrument. The former was built by Marcussen and Son in 1942. It is regarded as one of the most important examples of an ‘organ movement’ instrument in Denmark and was part of an attempt to allow the music of J.S. Bach to be played in a more ‘authentic’ manner.

A few biographical details about the organist may be of interest. Finn Viderø was born on 15 August 1906 in Fuglebjerg, Næstved in Denmark.  He served in several churches as organist, including the Reformed Church, the Jægersborg Church, the Trinitatis and St. Andreas Church all in Copenhagen. Besides his duties as an organist, he was a harpsichordist, a composer, a musicologist and a music teacher.

Viderø became known outside Denmark for the many recordings he made of organ works, most especially Bach. Some were issued on 78rpm records. These were highly-regarded interpretations that are deemed to be ‘authentic’ performances. Finn Viderø died in Copenhagen on 13 March 1987 aged 80 years.

The booklet notes explain that Viderø was a leading authority on Buxtehude. He wrote several articles on his organ music, and corrected discrepancies between the published editions of the scores. This is a tricky problem, as most of Buxtehude’s works have been transmitted by way of copies or copies of copies: there are no surviving autographs.

The liner notes include a detailed biographical sketch of Finn Viderø, which, as I have remarked before, is probably the longest study of the organist in print. The details of the two organs are faithfully recorded. There is no discussion of the music heard on this double CD set.

These performances have been well-restored, (remember they are 61 years old) although the top end ‘sizzle’ of the Frobenius organ at Sankt Johannes Church, Vejle, Denmark is still present. All these works are played with conviction, confidence and deep technical understanding. The registrations appear (sizzle excepted) to be imaginatively chosen.

John France

Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C Major BuxWV 137 [4:40]  
Prelude and Fugue in F Major BuxWV 145 [5:58]  
Prelude and Fugue in E Minor BuxWV 142 [8:49]  
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist BuxWV 209 & BuxWV 208 [3:31]  
Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder BuxWV 178 [2:15]  
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein BuxWV 210 [12:08]
Toccata in F Major BuxWV 156 [6:54]  
Prelude and Fugue in E Minor BuxWV 143 [5:28]  
Prelude and Fugue in F sharp Minor BuxWV 146 [6:37]  
Vater unser im Himmelreich BuxWV 207 & BuxWV 219 [11:23]  
Magnificat Primi Toni BuxWV 203 [7:35]  
Prelude and Fugue in G Minor BuxWV 150 [6:09]  
Prelude and Fugue in D Major BuxWV 139 [4:58]  
Chaconne in C minor BuxWV 159 [5:26]  
Prelude and Fugue in E Major BuxWV 141 [5:36]  
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern BuxWV 223 [7:14]  
Prelude and Fugue in A Minor BuxWV 153 [5:24]  
Canzona in C Major BuxWV 166 [4:10]  
Toccata in F Major BuxWV 157 [3:49]  
Canzona (Fugue) in G Major BuxWV 175 [3:14]  
Passacaglia in D Minor (dorian) BuxWV 161 [5:06]  
Prelude and Fugue in D Minor (dorian) BuxWV 140 [5:25]  
Chaconne in E Minor BuxWV 160 [4:30]  
Prelude and Fugue in G Major BuxWV 147 [3:05]  
Canzonetta in E Minor BuxWV 169 [2:47]  
Prelude and Fugue in G Minor BuxWV 149 [7:11]


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