Diderik Buxtehude - Intégrale de l'Œuvre pour orgue Vol. 2 North Germany Historical Organs Edition


Diderik Buxtehude 
Complete Organ Works (vol. 2)
Toccatas BuxWV 155, 156, 157 
Preludes and Fugues BuxWV 149, 150 
Te Deum laudamus BuxWV 218
Chorales BuxWV 182, 183, 184, 189 
Chorale-Fantasia "Ich dank dir, lieber Herre" BuxWV 188 

Jean-Charles Ablitzer 
Huß-Schnitger Historical Organ (1668-1688)
Sankt Cosmae und Damiani, Stade, Niedersachsen, North Germany

"Référence" de Compact n°54
"Un événement exceptionnel" de Télérama n°2108


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. 

Toccata and Fugue ("Toccata") in F major BuxWV 156

We again find the five-part form in this piece, but here the fugues occupy a less important place than in other scores of the "praeludium" type. This is a real virtuoso toccata, containing a number of highly contrasting sections with shifting rhythms. Buxtehude's effervescent imagination is fully displayed, but on closer hearing, the thematic interrelationship of the various melodic components is apparent, and also the solid structure underlying the fanciful surface.

Chorale "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" BuxWV 189

The melody of this Christmas hymn is carried by the soprano voice in a series of elaborate embroideries and garlanding. The three other voices carry the minor motifs of the fanfares and cadences, underlining the joy of the heavenly angels and the praises of mankind rising towards God.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in G minor BuxWV 150

This "Praeludium" contains less imposing proportions than the previous one (BuxWV 149), and the pathetic character of the G minor key is tempered by a B natural which has a lightening effect. The work concludes with the fugue stretto, which serves as the final section.

Chorale "Der Tag, der ist so Freudenreich" BuxWV 182

This Christmas hymn ("O joyous day") inspired the composer to endow its theme with an intricate ornamentation using a profusion of sixteenth notes, trills, and mordents to express the exaltation of the piece. But the composer also pauses to meditate on the mystery of the incarnation, and to evoke in conclusion the descent of God among mankind.

Toccata and Fugue (''Toccata'') in D minor BuxWV 155

This piece is typical of the five-part polyphonic form, with two fugues framed by freestyle sections. The factor differentiating the toccata from the prelude is, in fact, the greater freedom of the fantasia interludes, and the improvisational, unbridled manner in which the composer-performer appears intoxicated with the possibilities of his instrument.

Te Deum laudamus BuxWV 218

This is the most intricate and impressive of all the religious texts set to music by Buxtehude. However, only the prelude and four verses of the Te Deum have come down to us. No one knows whether or not Buxtehude ever set the others. None of Buxtehude's own manuscripts have survived, in fact; we know his works through copies and transcriptions made by his pupils and fellow-musicians, often incomplete or containing errors. In the case of this Te Deum, for example, the order of the verses in the original liturgical text is not respected in the surviving score, but should be reestablished in performance. Following the introductory prelude (in three-part form : prelude-fugue-prelude), comes, first, the "Te Deum laudamus", then the "Pleni sunt coeli et terra", the most intricate and varied of the four verses; next, the "Martyrum candidatus", featuring the tenor voice (played on the pedal board) in trio form; and, finally, the work's brilliant conclusion, the "Tu devicto aculeo".

Chorale "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" BuxWV 184

This well known Reformation chorale is here paraphrased in a highly ornate style, giving each word of the hymn a strongly poetic setting.

Toccata and Fugue (''Toccata'') in F major BuxWV 157

In this piece the multi-section form is abandoned for a return to the simple succession of toccata and fugue. The two-part toccata contrasts a rhapsodic introduction with a section in strict polyphony. The fugue develops the staccato figures from the beginning of the toccata in a lively, cheerful construction, concluding with an eloquent stretto.

Chorale-Fantasia "lch dank dir, lieber Herre" BuxWV 194

This relatively brief score, based on a thanksgiving chorale ("I thank thee, dear Lord"), is a fantasia treatment paraphrasing three verses of the hymn in three different musical sections. First comes a very simple introduction, followed by the first section in which the theme is treated in canon and diminution form; the second section is based on a series of octave canons; and the third introduces new contrapuntal figures and rhythmic variations before the conclusion. Detailed analysis of the piece reveals the composer's consummate mastery over an extremely diverse technical arsenal.

Chorale "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt" BuxWV 183

This chorale recounts the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the fall of Adam, the original sin corrupting humankind for all time ("Through Adam's sin"), and the ire of God. The hymn is rich in images underscored by the composer through the use of chromatics, descending figures, and diminution - a panoply of descriptive devices Bach was to return to in his treatment of the same chorale in the Orgelbüchlein.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in G minor BuxWV 149

Along with the Prelude and Fugue in F # minor, this is definitely one of Buxtehude's masterpieces, an accomplished work in terms of formal construction, but also a highly subjective score, in which the composer reveals his personality as an artist and a believer. The work's organization represents the ideal of the North German organist during the second half of the 17th century : the prelude proper is followed by a fugue, then by a toccata-type rhapsodic interlude leading up to a second fugue and a brilliant conclusion. Thematically, it is particularly striking to observe how all the components of the piece, and especially the subjects of the two fugues, develop out of each other. This gives the score great unity of tone within the diversity of the individual sections. Each of the sections is distinct and different from the others, especially rhythmically. And the work as a whole moves from the expansive and tormented virtuoso strokes of the beginning, to the achievement at the end of a serenity won through hard struggle. The piece traces the progress of a spiritual journey the composer invites us to take with him, leading from man's doubt in the hurly-burly of the world to the calm certitude of the Christian believer.

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 Cosmae und Damiani Church Huß-Schnitger historical organ in Stade


The organ was documented for the first time in 1493. In 1591, reference was made to organ builder Hans Scherer the Eider. The instrument was modified in 1606-1607 by Antonius Wilde of Otterndorf. Wilde added a full back organ and two pedal turrets. In 1628-1629, repairs were made by Hans Scherer the Younger, and in 1635 by an anonymous maker from Lübeck. This organ disappeared in the fire that swept Stade in 1659.

In the meantime, music was provided by a full organ purchased by the Cantor Thomas Selle, occasionally supplemented by an additional full organ and vox humana. The contract for building a new organ at Sankt Cosmae was awarded to Berendt Huß of Glüchstadt, with whom Arp Schnitger, a cousin, had been working since 1666. Construction of the organ began in 1668. First came the great organ, the full back organ and the full front organ. In 1671-1673 the pedals were installed. Formal completion of the instrument was recorded in 1673, although Huß continued working on it until 1675.

In 1688, Sankt Cosmae organist Vincent Lübeck had Schnitger make further changes. A 16' trumpet and a cymbal stop were added to the great organ, and to the front full organ, an 8' krummhorn and a 4' Schalmei. It is uncertain which registers were eliminated in order to make room for these changes.

Otto Dietrich Richborn of Hamburg made repairs to the instrument in 1727 and 1728, but these did not in any way change the production of sound. In 1781 and 1782, Georg Wilhelm Wilhelmy moved to Stade in order to do major work on the Sankt Cosmae organ. The changes he carried out were fundamental. Wilhelmy replaced the cymbal stop on the great organ with a Rauschpfeife, the 4' pedal trumpet with a 2' cornet, and the two largest 16' sub-bass metal pipes with pipes made of wood. Arcs were also constructed joining the great organ and the pedal turrets.

Major new work was done by Georg Wilhelm of Stade in 1837 - 1841, but the organ remained basically unchanged. However, the work done in 1870 by Johann Hinrich Röver of Stade did effect major changes in the production of sound. In 1910 the organ loft was enlarged on the eastern side, and this changed the acoustics substantially. In 1917 the frontal pipes of the great organ and the pedal were sacrificed. They were replaced by zinc pipes in 1919.

The first measures for restoring the organ to its original condition were undertaken in 1939. But it was not until 1948 that the firm of Paul Ott was able to complete the plans for the project. The loft was left as modified by the 1910 work. But when the pipes were installed, the air pressure was found to be too low, requiring a re-tuning of the organ.

Following restoration of the church itself in 1963-1966, so much damage to the organ was found that restoration of the instrument was again considered. In 1972-1975, Jürgen Ahrend of Leer-loga restored the organ according to the 1688 design. The organ-chest and the organ loft were returned to their original state. The Sankt Cosmae organ may thus be considered today, and rightly, as faithfully representing 17th century organ making in northern Germany.


Toccata BuxWV 156
in F-dur/in F major/Fa majeur

Choral BuxWV 189
"Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"

Praeludium BuxWV 150
in G-moll/in G minor/Sol mineur

Choral BuxWV 182
"Der Tag, der ist so Freudenreich"

Toccata BuxWV 155
in D-moll/in D minor/Ré mineur

Te Deum laudamus BuxWV 218

Choral BuxWV 184
"Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott"

Toccata BuxWV 157
in F-dur/in F major/Fa majeur

Choral-Fantasie BuxWV 194
"Ich dank dir, lieber Herre"

Choral BuxWV 183
"Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt"

Praeludium BuxWV 149
in G-moll/in G minor/Sol mineur


"Un événement exceptionnelde Télérama n°2108 :

Par les assauts répétés d'un vent brûlant et annonciateur de lendemains rudement chantants, un premier volume nous avait déjà mis le cœur en charpie (vol.1, H/CD 8718). L'univers fécond, nourri des visions les plus flamboyantes et aussi les plus ambigües, du maître de Lübeck, nous était révélé par un organiste qui n'avait pas froid aux yeux. Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) rompait avec les amarres qui auraient pu le retenir prisonnier au quai gris des habitudes. Pour que l'on puisse mieux encore savourer ces musiques parfumées de liberté, Jean-Charles Ablitzer avait choisi un instrument royal de son, l'orgue (1598-1683) Wilde-Schnitger de l'église de Cuxhaven-Lüdingworth en Basse-Saxe. Pour ces enregistrements, la quête de sonorités propres à engendrer le gai savoir, l'effervescent lyrisme de ce romantique avant la lettre, s'est avérée aussi fructueuse, l'orgue Huß-Schnitger (1668-1688) de Stade en Basse-Saxe et le Schnitger (1685- 1687) de Steinkirchen, toujours en Basse-Saxe possèdent un "jus" incontournable. Et comme Buxtehude et Ablitzer ruent dans les brancards, quelle savoureuse équipée. L'orgue dans tous ses états! - Paul Meunier

"Référencede Compact n°54 :

Nous avons salué, dans Compact n°43 page 33, comme nous le devions, le premier volume de cette intégrale Buxtehude commencée par Jean-Charles Ablitzer. Les deux nouveaux volumes tiennent totalement les promesses de leur prédécesseur. Voici donc réparties des pages diverses : Toccatas, Préludes, Chorals dont, pour le volume 2, le monumental Te Deum et le si beau "Ein Feste Burg". Pour le volume 3, davantage de Chorals dont un sublime Magnificat et la Passacaille en ré mineur annonçant Jean Sébastien Bach. Avec les Préludes, se révèle un prodigieux univers baroque avec ces récitatifs et ces longues courbes apposées à des architectures plus volubiles où les motifs surgissent tantôt aux manuels, tantôt à la pédale.
Pour varier notre plaisir, chaque disque est consacré à un orgue différent : celui de Stade construit par Huß et son cousin Schnitger entre 1668 et 1688, restauré avec génie par Ahrendt. Quant à celui de Steinkirchen, il fut érigé par Schnitger de 1685 à 1687 et, après divers avatars, a retrouvé sa véritable personnalité grâce au regretté Beckerath dont on admirera d'autant plus l'esprit de son intervention qu'elle fut d'abord commencée en 1946-47 avant que son entreprise ne l'acheva en 1987 avec un égal souci de perfection.
On comprendra la qualité sonore de pareils orgues, d'autant plus évidente dans cette musique que chaque plan de l'instrument correspond à un élément séparé du buffet. avec notamment les tourelles latérales détachées du grand corps. Mieux, comme pour le premier disque de la série, ces orgues sonnent dans des acoustiques très précises (mais en moins prononcé). Ce souci de netteté nous avait été expliqué par Jean-Charles Ablitzer qui a fondé son interprétation sur cette vérité sonore de l'orgue, si présente que tout le contrepoint s'impose dans sa variété de toucher, de respiration, de vocalité même, grâce au vent quasi humain maîtrisé par la main de l'organiste singulièrement au lâcher du clavier et par la soufflerie cunéiforme, au souffle si vivant. Cependant, dans le premier volume, l'acoustique était totalement sèche (il s'agissait d'un choix esthétique de la part d'Ablitzer), sans aucune réverbération sonore, ce qui pouvait surprendre, sinon déplaire à nombre de mélomanes. Et qui correspondait, en tout état de cause, à une écoute très particulière, sans doute intéressante essentiellement pour ceux qui connaissaient déjà les oeuvres. Nous n'avions donc pas donné la "Référence" au disque. Dans ces deux nouveaux volumes, l'acoustique apparaît beaucoup plus "naturelle" ("habituelle" dirons-nous plutôt, car le premier album n'était nullement "tripatouillé" techniquement), aussi n'hésitons-nous pas à accorder la "Référence" à ces disques dotés d'une interprétation admirable, à la fois sobre et somptueuse.
Il apparaît de toute évidence, avec ces deux nouveaux volumes, que nous nous trouvons ici devant une des grandes versions de référence pour l'oeuvre de Buxtehude. Conclusion : des visions superbes, d'une rare clarté, à la fois somptueuses et extrêmement sobres...
 - Claude Noisette de Crauzat.
Technique : 4 étoiles. Le son est présent, défini et propre. L'aération est bonne et l'ambiance bien restituée. Les timbres sont naturels.

Sélected by "La Discothèque Idéale" de Flammarion/Compact

© 2021 Harmonic Classics