Diderik Buxtehude - Intégrale de l'Œuvre pour orgue Vol. 3 North Germany Historical Organs Edition


Diderik Buxtehude 
Complete Organ Works (vol. 3) 
Preludes and fugues BuxWV 136, 138, 139, 144
Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 204
Praeambulum BuxWV 158
Passacaglia BuxWV 161
Chorales BuxWV 177, 178, 186, 192, 195, 200, 202, 211, 214, 221 

Jean-Charles Ablitzer 
Schnitger Historical Organ (1685-1687)
Sankt Martini und Nicolai, Steinkirchen, 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.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in D major BuxWV 139

In the fresh and triumphal key of D major, this brilliant work begins with a series of open chords reminiscent of hunting horns. A fugue on repeated notes extends the tenor of the beginning with a joyous fanfare. Following an "adagio" polyphonic interlude the piece ends on resounding staccato sixteenth-note chords.

Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 204

This is the second Magnificat primi toni (first tone, D minor) set by Buxtehude. It has three sections. Following a brief introduction, the hymn theme is introduced in a four-voiced fugato, then in a stretto, and finally in a looser construction based on a ternary rhythm.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeambulum") in A minor BuxWV 158

Under the title "Praeambulum", Buxtehude composed a score derived from the prelude and the toccata, accompanied with fugues. The work begins with a brilliant toccata, followed by an initial fugue offering the unusual feature of a subject that also serves as the counter subject. Following this extensively developed section, a second, shorter, fugue introduces a subject derived from that of the previous one. The piece concludes with a brief toccata.

Chorale "Ach Gott und Herr" BuxWV 177

Here we have a chorale partita, that is, a work in which each line of the hymn is elaborated in a different, and appropriate, way. Of the six lines in the hymn, two are treated by Buxtehude (the work is perhaps unfinished).The first line has the melody in the tenor voice (played on the pedal board), without ornamentation. By contrast, the second, in the soprano voice, is richly ornamented over a spare harmonic bass.

Passacaglia in D minor BuxWV 161

Three of Buxtehude's works are grounded on an obstinately repeated theme, the two chaconnes (BuxWV 159 and 160) and this passacaglia, a work with which Bach had surely become familiar before composing his own passacaglia. Here the four-measure theme is repeated (always in the bass) 28 times; however the variations, separated into four groups of seven, each of equal length, are in different keys. The first group (variations 1-7) is in D minor. The theme is given a strict and relatively simple polyphonic treatment. Variations 8-14 (group 2) modulate to the relative key of F major, usually in a five-voiced polyphonic form with syncopated eighth notes. Variations 15-21 (group 3) are in A minor (the dominant of D minor). Again using five voices, this time the rhythm is much more varied, with syncopation, broken chords, and runs. The piece returns to the tonic, finally, for the concluding group (variations 22-28), and there is also a return to four-voiced polyphony, this time in a superb outpouring of extremely varied melodic and rhythmic figures leading up to the final apotheosis.

Chorale "Herr Christ der einig Gottes Sohn" BuxWV 192

This is a Christmas hymn ("Lord Christ, only son of God"), of which Buxtehude composed two versions (the other is BuxWV 191). Here it is given an intimate treatment. Above a tightly-constructed and strict contrapuntal line (a small masterpiece of polyphony using great economy of means) the soprano expands the melody freely in a dreamy meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in C major BuxWV 136

In contrast to most contemporary preludes and fugues, this one, also in five parts, introduces the second fugue at the end of the work. A powerful polyphonic prelude serves as the opening statement, followed by the first fugue. Two interludes come next, one in toccata form, the other an energetic virtuoso fugue theme. The piece ends with a five-voice gigue, a type of which Buxtehude was particularly fond, cheerful and dance-like.

Chorale "Es ist das Heil uns kommen Her" BuxWV 186

"Our salvation is at hand", this hymn affirms the power of grace over human actions. It is a testament of faith, purposely given a diatonic, sold harmony. Only the melody is ornamented, but it never strays far from the chorale melody, and is easily recognizable.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in C major BuxWV 138

A recently discovered work that does not appear in previous editions, this is a composite triptych written when the composer was young. It begins with a polyphonic prelude firmly fixed on the "good" notes of the scale, C and G. It is followed, not with one but with two, fugues, which are linked together, with the counter-subject of the first becoming the subject of the second and vice-versa. The whole is concluded with a very freeform toccata.

Chorale "Von Gott will ich nicht lassen" BuxWV 221

Buxtehude composed two treatments of this hymn tune (the other is BuxWV 220). Here it appears in the form of a fantasia, liberally paraphrasing the chorale, in which Buxtehude sees the joy of the Christian being led by his Creator ("Don't separate me from my God"). This is reflected in an outburst of vocal ornamentation, figures of trusting joy from the composer who treats the hymn tune freely, repeating some of the lines.

Chorale "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" BuxWV 211

This is an Advent hymn, based on the Latin "Veni Redemptor gentium" ("Come now, Saviour of the people"), and it is one of the most familiar in the lutheran hymnal. Everything in this brief chorale expresses the impatient expectation of mankind for the Redeemer, the second coming of the Messiah from on high. The delicately embroidered treble G in the final chord shines like a first intimation of the Christmas star that appeared to the shepherds.

Chorale "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich" BuxWV 202

A brief Christmas chorale ("Praise God, all Christians"). The chorale melody, which goes back to the first decades of the Reformation, is in the soprano and is liberally ornamented; it also provides the thematic elements for the polyphonic accompaniment.

Chorale "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" BuxWV 214

Buxtehude composed four versions (BuxWV 212-215) of this hymn of praise ("My soul, praise ye now the Lord"). Here it is treated as a figured chorale. The melody is first given an exposition in a four-voiced fugato. It is then developed in a canon between bass and soprano, or in the soprano alone. This highly individual piece is based on a sarabande rhythm, a slow, three-beat dance form.

Chorale "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott" BuxWV 200

This is a hymn for Pentecost ("Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God"), in which a prelude underscores the dual motion of the Holy Spirit descending and the prayers of the faithful rising. The musical elaboration of the melody is rich in motifs evoking these two movements and accurately paraphrasing, word for word, image for image, the next of the hymn. After the final Alleluia, a joyous motif evokes for one last time, in descending arabesques, the coming of the Holy Spirit into Christian hearts.

Chorale "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder" BuxWV 178

This is a chorale of atonement ("Alas! Lord, I am but a miserable sinner"), one of many hymns based on a sixteenth century love song attributed to Hassler. It is easily recognizable since, sung to different words, it is the main chorale tune of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Here the melody is treated as a four-part canon with chromatic and descending figures evocative of the sinner's remorse.

Chorale "lch dank dir schon durch Deinen Sohn" BuxWV 195

This is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving ("I give thanks for your son"). The composer has treated it in a four-part, highly developed fantasia form. All the thematic material of the polyphony is borrowed from the melodic elements of the hymn, the lines of which are frequently repeated (11 times in the second section, 10 times in the fourth). The polyphony is derived from the ricercari of the ancient masters, elevating the chorale's vocal line with great economy of means combined with a highly imaginative development.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in F major BuxWV 144

This is a modest score, perhaps unfinished, made up to a prelude in classic form and a fugue with an original, clearly defined subject developed in a variety of highly imaginative ways.

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 Martini und Nicolai Church Schnitger historical organ in Steinkirchen


Northern Germany, especially the coastal area, is home to a large number of historic organs. The explanation for this lies both in the humidity of the local climate, and the efforts of the inhabitants to preserve the instruments. Because of these factors, many of the surviving organs are truly remarkable, even those found in small villages.

Steinkirchen lies at the centre of a major fruit growing region, on the left bank of the Elbe on the road to Hamburg. Here, in the Sankt Martini und Nicolai Church, stands an organ built in 1687 by Arp Schnitger (1648-1719).

We would know more about the history of this organ if the contract drawn up with Arp Schnitger had not been lost during the 19th century. The pastor with whom Schnitger signed the contract died on 21 February 1687. Further, there is no information concerning the construction of the organ in the parish records. Only the mention of a baby girl's baptism on 14 December 1686, with Arp Schnitger and his companion Claus von Eitzen listed as godfathers, provides us with proof that the two must have been in Steinkirchen at the time.

Before Schnitger built his organ in the western loft that had been installed to hold it, the church choir already contained an organ with a manual keyboard, to which organ maker Dirck Hoyer added a second in 1581. This contract survives today in the parish records. Schnitger used some of this organ's registers when he constructed his own instrument.

In 1775, organ maker Georg Wilhelm Wilhelmy of Stade renovated the organ. It was at this time that the "Zimbelstern" was modified and the 8' pedal bourdon was replaced with an 8' set of stops. During the 19th century, other organ makers further changed the instrument to conform with the tastes of the times. In 1946-1947, Rudolf von Beckerath restored it in the spirit of its original builder, Schnitger.

Unfortunately, however, the material available to him in a period of postwar scarcity were of mediocre quality. Consequently, the same firm undertook total restoration of all the organ's mechanical parts in 1987. The loft was strengthened and straightened. The pieces removed during the 1946-1947 restoration (the "Brustwerk" tracker, the keyboards and pedals) were renovated and put back. Air for the instrument is provided by six wedgeshaped bellows.

Text after K.E. Jacobskötter original.


Praeludium BuxWV 139
in D-dur/in D major/Ré majeur

Magnificat primi toni BuxWV 204

Praeambulum BuxWV 158
in A-moll/in A minor/La mineur

Choral BuxWV 177
"Ach Gott und Herr"

Passacaglia BuxWV 161
in D-moll/in D minor/Ré mineur

Choral BuxWV 192
"Herr Christ der einig Gottes Sohn"

Praeludium BuxWV 136
in C-dur/in C major/Ut majeur

Choral BuxWV 186
"Es ist das Heil uns kommen Her"

Praeludium BuxWV 138
in C-dur/in C major/Ut majeur

Choral BuxWV 221
"Von Gott will ich nicht lassen"

Choral BuxWV 211
"Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland"

Choral BuxWV 202
"Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich"

Choral BuxWV 214
"Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren"

Choral BuxWV 200
"Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott"

Choral BuxWV 178
"Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder"

Choral BuxWV 195
"Ich dank dir schon durch Deinen Sohn"

Praeludium BuxWV 144
in F-dur/in F major/Fa majeur


"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 : 5 étoiles. Le son est présent et propre avec une excellente définition. L'aération est très bonne ainsi que la restitution de l'ambiance. Le respect des timbres est exemplaire.

Sélected by "La Discothèque Idéale" de Flammarion/Compact

© 2021 Harmonic Classics