Diderik Buxtehude - Intégrale de l'Œuvre pour orgue Vol.1 North Germany Historical Organs Edition


Diderik Buxtehude 
Complete Organ Works (vol. 1) 
Preludes and fugues BuxWV 137, 140, 148, 153 
Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 203 
Fantasia on "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" BuxWV 188
Chorales BuxWV 190, 199, 219 
Ciacona BuxWV 160 

Jean-Charles Ablitzer 
Wilde-Schnitger Historical Organ (1598-1683)
Sankt Jacobi Church, Cuxhaven-Lüdingworth, Niedersachsen, North Germany

"Un événement exceptionnel" de Télérama n°2052


Buxtehude's organ music as we know it today was written exclusively to accompany the Lutheran church service. The composer's oeuvre contains 48 Chorales (including 3 "Magnificat") and 36 other pieces. Out of the latter, 24 are of the "Praeludium" type (preludes, toccatas, and fugues), 9 are "Canzona" and 3 are strictly chaconnes or passacaglias. Actually, the composer combined and interwove the different musical genres practiced in his time, as the brief descriptions given below will demonstrate.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in G minor BuxWV 148

This score is a perfect example of the composite style favored by Buxtehude, combining various formal musical devices within a single "Praeludium" : a prelude or toccata, a fugue theme or a complete fugue, and a chaconne, all combined in a vast rhapsodie line. However, there is a structural relationship (intervals, rhythms) among the separate parts which endows the "praeludium" with a strong sense of unity as its various facets are displayed. Here we have a toccata (very Bach-like), a fugato, two fugues, and a chaconne (exposition of the theme followed by 13 variations).

Chorale "Gott der Vater wohn uns bei" BuxWV 190

The chorale melody is straightforward and highly diatonic, ornamented in the soprano voice but remaining completely "Iegible" or recognizable to the listener. The hymn's twelve verses are interspersed with pauses during which the three other voices provide an imitative commentary on the melody.

Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne ("Praeludium") in C major. BuxWV 137

Another instance of interwoven forms within a single coherent whole, the "Praeludium" is made up of a prelude leading into a four-voice fugue based on a theme similar to that of the prelude. Then, after an interlude in toccata form, a brilliant chaconne with 8 ostinatos, marked "presto", develops the same basic unit in a new way, until the work finally draws to a close on five toccata measures.

Chorale "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott" BuxWV 199

This is a hymn for Pentecost, similar to the "Vini Creator" it paraphrases. Bach gives two versions of it in his Organ Mass (in the "dogma" Chorales). The Chorale melody is in the soprano voice, richly ornamented in order better to express the feeling of universal outpouring in the words of the hymn ("Come Holy Ghost, come God our King ! Fill the hearts and souls and minds of the believers with thy grace ! Fill them with your overflowing love ! ...").

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in D minor BuxWV 140

A new five-part polyptych : Prelude (with broken chords reminiscent of Bach's violin work, BWV 565, like the fugue also in D minor); an initial fugue whose subject sets octave jumps and repeated notes against each other; a two-part interlude, toccata and fugato; a second fugue developing a subject derived directly from the first fugue; and a concluding toccata.

Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 203

This major piece embellishes and develops the theme of the Magnificat, sung for the Feast of the Annunciation. It provides a verse-by-verse exposition of the components of the hymn, in eight sections. Each section is introduced like a fugue or a fugato, accompanied in some cases with a more ornamental preamble - with the exception of the fourth and sixth sections, which are more strictly polyphonic. This score is governed by great thematic unity, based on very similar figures arranged in increasingly diversified order which, as it unfolds, provides a commentary on the musical and religious text.

Chorale "Vater unser im Himmelreich" BuxWV 219

This is the "Our Father" of the Lutheran church service. It comes after the Cantata and before Holy Communion. This hymn, with words and music by Luther, was given four different treatments by Bach (once in the "Orgelbüchlein", twice in the Organ Mass). Here, the chorale melody appears with ornamentation in the soprano voice. The last verse ("Help us pray to thee from the depths of our hearts") is lushy ornamented to express the emotions of the prayer, with a four-measure cadence rising towards God the Father and the Heavenly Kingdom.

Fantasia on "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" BuxWV 188

The melody of this hymn by Luther goes back to Johann Walter (1524). This five-verse hymn of praise is one of the most important pieces in Buxtehude's work - the equivalent of Reinken's "An Wasserflüssen Babylon". Both compositions contain large chorale paraphrases, presenting what amount to verse-by- verse summaries of the art of the chorale which were destined to make a deep impression on the young Bach. The chorale treatment is much more complicated, in fact, than in the four versions of it given by Bach in his youth (including one in the "Orgelbüchlein" ). In order to give an idea of the richness of this four-voice chorale, we will describe the first verse in length. The verse is developed over 37 measures and begins with a fugato based solely on the first notes of the melody - an insistant affirmation of praise ("gelobet !"). After this introduction, the melody surges forth in its entirety. The melody is repeated "plain" at the conclusion of the section, introduced by a toccata phrase. The melody is heard no less than 14 different times during this episode. Buxtehude's handling of counterpoint, exploiting isolated components of his subject (especially its lead phrase), enhancing them with ornamental figures taken from the subject itself and echoing each other imitatively - all create an extremely dense musical fabric animated in a unique way by the chorale, whose basic substance is exalted by all the polyphony, even when it does not appear explicitely. This skill contributes powerfully to bringing out the musical and spiritual content of the words and score.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in A minor BuxWV 153

The construction of this piece is simple : prelude, double fugue, prelude. Listeners will note the polyphonic power of the prelude, with its extremely close-knit interplay of imitations : Bach never forgot them. The first fugue develops the subject in all of its forms, both straight and inversed. The subject of the second fugue grows directly out of the first, presenting a new variation on it that is chromatic and in triple time.

Chaconne ("Ciacona") in E minor BuxWV 160

This is a major score built on a four-measure ostinato in the bass repeated 31 times. The theme is very simple, descending diatonically on the four steps from the tonic to the dominant (E - D - C - B). Buxtehude then goes on, however, gradually modifying the basic figure of the theme rhythmically or chromatically. At one point the recapitulation of the theme is implied rather than stated, with only its original harmonic structure remaining. The polyphonic variations take place against an increasingly complex background, giving the composer a chance to show off every facet of his musical imagination.

Text after Gilles Cantagrel original

Jean-Charles Ablitzer


Born in 1946 and attracted early in life by the organ, Jean-Charles Ablitzer was self-taught before enrolling in the Strasbourg Conservatory, where he studied under Pierre Vidal. In 1971 he won the post of organist at Saint-Christophe Cathedral of Belfort, home of the great Valtrin-Callinet organ restored by Kurt Schwenkedel of Strasbourg. The same year he was also named professor of organ at the Belfort Conservatory.

J.C. Ablitzer's extensive knowledge of baroque music and instruments conditions the rigorous discipline of his style, which reflects the principles described in learned treatises; his personal discoveries regarding registration, articulation and phrasing; and his research into antique organs (construction materials, keyboard and pedalboard configuration). Jean-Charles Ablitzer is an ardent chamber-music performer, and has participated in numerous baroque ensemble concerts and recordings.

The high quality of Ablitzer's recordings (Bach, Couperin) has received ample praise from the critics : "…Playing a superb Catalan instrument with the characteristic Iberian nasality, Ablitzer constructs a glittering monument resounding with vast incandescent figures. Phrasing, registration, and digital dexterity are stunning. No one since Chapuis has played Couperin this brilliantly…" (from a review by Jean-Luc Macia).

Ablitzer's two recordings of François Couperin Masses were ranked by the monthly review "Le Monde de la Musique" as among the ten best classical recordings of 1987.
"…Jean-Charles Ablitzer's abilities as a colourist enable him to etch the smallest details of a tormented work that eschews comfortable harmonies and banal equilibrium, and to confront its most lyrical effusions with aplomb. This "Complete Works" (Buxtehude) in progress is devilishly promising…" (from a review by Paul Meunier).

"…But never fear; the Belfort organist doesn't drag Brahms over the borderline into austere pedantry. He remembers the lesson this composer learned during his long stay in Vienna, the importance of smooth flow and sunny declamation : here is a recording flooded with just that Viennese spirit…" (from a review by Xavier Lacavalerie).

"…his fervour is enough to draw tears from a stone, but it is his exuberance and joy that fulfil the crucial role of restoring to Titelouze's music its original sharp brilliance and dazzling verve. The centuries fall away, the musical themes engage with each other like flashing swords of light…" (from a review by Paul Meunier).

"…dedicated to Georg Boehm, known for having influenced the great Bach, his works, it is now proven, deserve their own success. To the glowing chorales, Monique Zanetti lends her pureness and ecstatic innocence, while Jean-Charles Ablitzer offers glory and enlightenment.” (from a review by Paul Meunier).

"…he is well aware of the recent musicological evolutions, his application of which is extremely seductive… He is not the prisoner of any fashion in his choice of tempi, phrasing, or registration. On the contrary, he is constantly inspired, proposing innovative solutions with every page." (from a review by Francis Albou /J.S. Bach, Organ works in Goslar).


The Sankt Jacobi Church Wilde-Schnitger historical organ in Cuxhaven-Lüdingworth


The present Wilde-Schnitger organ, dating from 1598 and 1683, is not the first organ to have been installed in the church at Lüdingworth. Early documents that have survived mention the existence of an organ in 1561.

Antonius Wilde was the pupil of Hans Scherer the Elder. After working on the organ at Otterndorf, he declared himself free of his master and settled in the town.

His Lüdingworth organ was probably installed on the main floor of the church, under the west gallery located under the arch on the north side. The great north “Prieche'' gallery did not yet exist, and the church ended on the east side with the first semi-circular arch, near the pulpit. The church's acoustics were not the same as they are today, therefore, and a wooden roof located under the building's shell accentuated the differences even further. In 1680, negotiations were undertaken with Arp Schnitger on the possibility of enlarging the organ. Work on the organ began, in situ, on Saint Michael's Day in 1682.

While Schnitger spent the winter 1682-1683 in Hamburg to build the organ in the church of Sankt Nikolai, his companion Andreas Weber, from the Compenius family "school", completed the Lüdingworth work by Easter, 1683.

Weber left a written document inside the organ which was discovered in 1931 in the wind-chest of the back choir organ.In this text, dated 8 February 1683, he writes about the misery in the region and in Lüdingworth. A storm has broken the dam at Altenbruch. For a year mice have decimated the wheat crops. On top of every thing else, a new priest must be recruited. However, the sum of 1,000 Lübeck Marks has been collected to pay Herr Arpen "cash on demand" as soon as the organ is completed.

It is reasonable to assume that the organ was built in terms of the new acoustics due to the enlargement of the church carried out from 1606-1609. Construction of the north gallery in the 18th century probably further altered the acoustics. This was undoubtedly corrected by the construction in 1960 of a stone floor under the lowered shell.

Visually, the organ looked like new following schnitger’s work. Schnitger had placed it in the middle of the church, between the north and south walls. Because of space considerations, the new left pedal turret was placed below the high floor of the church.

The organ was apparently left unpainted until later.

Concerning the treatment of the sound, the Wilde Oberwerk remained dominant, providing a transitional aesthetic between the Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque.

During the following centuries, the organ did not undergo any major modification to its sonic structure. However, a certain number of repairs and renovations were carried out on it.

In 1932, the Organ was declared a historic monument.

The delapidated state of the church and the toll taken by the war had led to rapid ruin for the organ. In 1941, the registers were blocked, cracks in the wind-chests were leaking, and the pedal board had suffered water damage and was so warped no one could play it. Although repairs were made in 1943, the organ was still only partially usable at the end of the war.

The roof of the church had to be repaired before any new restoration work could begin on the organ. The real extent of disrepair into which the church had fallen did not become obvious until much later, and it was only when the building was restored in 1974-1976 that major restoration work on the organ could be contemplated. Work was carried out from 1980-1982 in the workshop of organ maker Jürgen Ahrend in Leer-Loga.

But at the feast of Pentecost in 1982, the Lüdingworth organ was restored to all of the visual and musical glory it had originally known in 1683.

Excerpts from : "Informations on the history of religious music in Lüdingworth" by Walther Bornemann.


Praeludium BuxWV 148
in G-moll/in G minor/Sol mineur

Choral BuxWV 190 
"Gott der Vater wohn uns bei"
Praeludium BuxWV 137
in C-dur/in C major/Ut majeur

Choral BuxWV 199 
"Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott"

Praeludium BuxWV 140
in D-moll/in D minor/Ré mineur

Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 203
Choral BuxWV 219
"Vater unser im Himmelreich" 

Fantasie BuxWV 188
on/sur "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"

Praeludium BuxWV 153
in A-moll/in A minor/La mineur

Ciacona BuxWV 160
in E-moll/in E minor/Mi mineur


"Un événement exceptionnelde Télérama n°2052 :

Les hasards de l'actualité - discographique - font bien les choses : après Johann Pachelbel, voici Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) qui, lui aussi, eut son mot à dire dans l'éclosion du génie de J. S. Bach. Mais si le maître de Nüremberg a vu, hélas, son étoile pâlir au cours des siècles, celui de Lübeck n'a pas cessé d'aveugler le monde de ses dons visionnaires. Les organistes sont nombreux (Marie-Claire Alain, Michel Chapuis, René Saorgin, François-Henri Houbart, etc.) à se presser autour de lui et à se réchauffer de ses rayons. Jean-Charles Ablitzer a choisi et bien lui en a pris, l'orgue Wilde-Schnitger (1598-1683) de l'église Sankt Jacobi de Cuxhaven-Lüdingworth, en Basse-Saxe, pour tirer le meilleur profit de cet univers qui frise le Romantisme, tant il s'arrache de manière épique à l'orthodoxie de l'époque. L'instrument est d'une beauté confondante et il permet à Ablitzer de lever les pires tempêtes, d'oser les clairs-obscurs les plus ambigus, de jouer des frémissements les plus entêtants. Les qualités de coloriste de Jean-Charles Ablitzer permettent de ciseler le moindre détail de cette œuvre tourmentée qui se moque comme d'une guigne de la rassurante harmonie, du quiet équilibre, et que les plus lyriques effusions n'effarouchent pas. Voilà une intégrale en cours diablement prometteuse. - Paul Meunier 
Technique : 5T.
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