Diderik Buxtehude - Intégrale de l'Œuvre pour orgue Vol. 5 North Germany Historical Organs Edition


Diderik Buxtehude 
Complete Organ Works (vol. 5) 
Preludes and fugues BuxWV 142, 147, 162, 163
Canzonas BuxWV 170, 173
Magnificat noni toni BuxWV 205
Chorales BuxWV 181, 185, 187, 193, 201, 207, 213 
Canzonetta BuxWV 169 

Jean-Charles Ablitzer 
Schnitger Historical Organ (1710-1782)
Evangelical reformed Church, Weener, Niedersachsen, North Germany

"Choc" du Monde de la Musique n°148 
"Référence" de Compact n°68


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 manualiter ("Praeludium") in G minor BuxWV 163

This Praeludium stretches to the utmost the interplay among contrasting sections, containing as it does seven distinct parts, including three fugues. Curiously, there is no thematic unity among the various sections, although such unity is a common feature in Buxtehude's work. Could this, perhaps, have been a youthful effort? The sections are, successively : a toccata, an initial dance-like fugue, a toccata-style transition, a second fugue with a lofty subject, another fugue in a whimsical tone, a furious third fugue, and a final toccata conclusion.

Chorale "Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl" BuxWV 187

A relatively unfamiliar melody ("From Humble Mouths come Words Divine...") given a wealth of highly vocal coloratura ornamentation subsiding as the hymn concludes. Within a somewhat modulating harmony, the contrapuntal commentary repeats earlier imitations of the melody.

Canzona in G major BuxWV 170

Buxtehude composed some ten pieces in the Canzone style. They usually contain three fugues (or "fugatos"), and are only remotely related to the "songs" from which the form originally sprang. This Canzona, as we know it today, contains only two parts, but we can assume that a third part existed once, and has since been lost. The first fugato is a cheerful piece for four voices, featuring witty repetition. Following a brief recitativo, the second fugato embarks on a rhythmic variation of the first - a candid, lively gigue.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in G major BuxWV 147

Although this piece is one of the least developed of the "Praeludium" type, it is nevertheless a fresco of varied and contrasting sections : a prelude-toccata, with pedal board effects, polyphonic section and swiftly moving peroration; followed by a noble and hieratic four-part fugue; and a formal conclusion in the toccata style.

Chorale "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" BuxWV 213

Buxtehude composed four settings for this hymn of praise ("My soul doth Magnify the Lord"). The other versions are recorded in volumes 3 (BuxWV 214) and 4 (BuxWV 215 and 212) of the "Complete Works". Here, the hymn is given a selection of choral treatments based on three different "verses" : the first two-part, the second three-part, and the third again three-part, but with the melody carried by the bass line. In all three cases, and despite the different treatments, the progression is identical, with increasing ornamentation towards the end in order to heighten the images of sin and "mortal misery" suffered before the peace of Divine protection is granted.

Prelude and Fugue manualiter ("Praeludium") in G major BuxWV 162

A classic polyptych made up of five alternating sections : a prelude in which sixteenth-notes runs are punctuated by chords, developing into an initial fugue with a rhythmically unusual subject; a transitional passage; a second fugue in a dance-like ternary rhythm; and, lastly, a virtuoso finale. This Praeludium can be played solely on manual Keyboards, but it calls for occasional pedal board support, and thus appears to have been written for the organ.

Chorale "Danker dem Herren" BuxWV 181

This short hymn of thanksgiving ("Thanks Be To Our Loving Lord") has only two lines. Buxtehude developed it three ways, in the form of a small chorale variation. Each of the three verses is composed for three voices, with the unornamented, stately melody first in the soprano, then in the tenor, and, finally, in the bass. Contrapuntally, however, the treatment is highly complex.

Chorale "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort" BuxWV 185

The words to this Reformation Festival hymn ("Protect us With Thy Word, O God") were written by Luther. Buxtehude heightens the mood of serene and joyful trust in a God who protects the Christian against all enemies. The exultant melody is jubilantly ornamented.

Chorale "Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn" BuxWV 201

The message of this hymn ("Abide with me, saith God the Son") is set by Buxtehude in a mood of delicate lyricism, and the melody's ornamentation is reflective and poetic. Although the composition is highly formal, the overall impression is one of freely improvised paraphrase.

Canzona in G minor BuxWV 173

A brief, minor piece composed as a miniature three-part fugue on a clear-cut sequential theme that was later to inspire J.S. Bach.

Magnificat noni toni BuxWV 205

This title covers three Magnificat verses in the "ninth key", an atonic D-minor mode. The first verse is set as a fine, strongly contrapuntal four-part fugato and appears to be independent of the two others. They, however, are actually based on the same motif, the initial notes of the German Magnificat, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herren". The second verse brings in the liturgical theme in the bass part, with composer's notation indicating tremolo stop; and the third is a 12th interval canon between the soprano voice and responding bass, with a richly contrapuntal structure reminiscent of Bach.

Chorale "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott" BuxWV 207

The melody of this chorale (based on the text "We are Thine, Lord God") is the same as that of the Lutheran "Lord's Prayer" ("Vater unser"). Four settings of it by Buxtehude have survived, and they have been consolidated in the modern edition of his works to create a single set of chorale variations in four "verses". These are; 1 - in three parts, with a relatively unornamented melody and sweeping commentary; 2 - in two parts, with melody and commentary both highly ornamented; 3 - in four parts, with an intricately ornamented, discreetly sustained melody; 4 - in two parts, with a minimum of ornamentation for the melody but a rich instrumental counterpoint against the second voice.

Chorale "Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiss gar wohl" BuxWV 193

The melody for this confession of faith ("Lord Jesus Christ I Knoweth") is carried as usual by the soprano voice. At first devoid of ornamentation, it is gradually and eloquently enriched. Within the web of imitations woven by the other voices, the chorale theme slowly but clearly emerges in the bass.

Canzonetta in E minor BuxWV 169

This is a modest, only slightly developed work for keyboards alone. The carefully thought-out treatment of the lovely, reflective, and melodic subject is, however, handled with poetic delicacy.

Prelude and Fugue ("Praeludium") in E minor BuxWV 142

This is one of the composer's greatest masterpieces, an exceptionally long and detailed free-style work. It contains five main sections that are a model of their kind, but this time with three fugues instead of only two - an obvious sign of greater complexity. A classic prelude, powerfully polyphonic in its uninterrupted flow of sixteenth-notes, is used to develop a richly harmonic theme. The initial fugue, with a subject reminiscent of Bach, could have been written for the violin, with its descending sixteenth-notes. This is one of Buxtehude's most intricately developed fugues. The second fugue, in ternary rhythm and as elaborate as the first, is based on a descending chromatic theme introduced by the coda to the preceding one. A very free transitional toccata section contains an elaborate, reflective recitativo also with a highly chromatic harmony. The third and last fugue is a lively gigue, its subject a trumpet-like fanfare, its mood in complete contrast to the first two - the resolution, as it were, to a conflict that has finally come to a head. The pedal board plays an important role, the chords sound like hammer strokes, the whole sweeps towards a stupendous and rhapsodic conclusion.

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 Evangelical reformed Church Schnitger historical organ in Weener


In 1709, the elders of the Reform church of Weener decided to commission the construction of a new organ, and to finance it through contributions from the congregation. The organ was built in 1709 - 1710 by Arp Schnitger the Elder's sons, Arp the Younger and Franz Gaspar, and by organ guild member Nikolaus Stöver. The contract for the work has not survived, but we can assume that it was drawn up with Schnitger the Elder, who then entrusted it to his son Arp. On 29 October 1710, Arp Schnitger married Gold Maria Margreta, daughter of Weener Stable Master Simon de Courgelon. The following year Nikolaus Stöver married Simon's sister, Martha Barbara de Courgelon, thus becoming Arp Schnitger the Younger's brother-in-law. The costs for building the organ were approximately 3,500 Gulden.

The design of the organ (a record of which was discovered in the archives in 1779, listing only 12 stops on the great organ, 10 on the choir organ and one pedal coupler) proves to what extent the independent pedal register fades away the further we get from Hamburg and the closer to Holland, nexus of the reform movement.

Minor repairs carried out by Nikolaus Stöver (1716-1725) and Johann Friedrich Constabel de Wittmund do not appear to have significantly modified the basic structure of the instrument, which remained relatively unchanged until the major transformation carried out in 1781-1782 by Johann Friedrich Wenthin of Emden. On the manual keyboard, Wenthin replaced a "Spitzflöte 2" with a "Spitzflöte 4" and a "Vox Humana 8" with a "Fagott 16" . He enlarged the organ by adding a chest-choir organ and an independent pedal board. The pedal board was placed inside two rococo-style lateral turrets which are clearly distinguishable from the main organ-chest and the back choir organ.

Almost 100 years later (1876-1877), organmakers Rohlfing, of Osnabrück, removed the chest-choir organ, and shifted the back-choir organ to a spot inside the main organ-chest, thus reducing the instrument's keyboards to two.

At this time, and also during repair work done in 1906 by the same firm, the organ lost a portion of its original stops. In 1917, the Ministry of Defense requisitioned the frontal pipes, since the tin they contained was needed for the war effort.

In 1952 Alfred Führer restored the back-choir organ, and in 1973 renovations were carried out by Vierdag organmakers of the Netherlands. This firm followed the original plans, and re-incorporated some of the original materials. The organ owes its present tone to the art of Jürgen Ahrend (Leer-Loga), who added the final touches to the restoration.


Praeludium manualiter BuxWV 163
in G-moll/in G minor/Sol mineur

Choral BuxWV 187
"Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl"

Canzona BuxWV 170
in G-dur/in G major/Sol majeur

Praeludium BuxWV 147
in G-dur/in G major/Sol majeur

Choral BuxWV 213
"Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren"

Praeludium manualiter BuxWV 162
in G-dur/in G major/Sol majeur

Choral BuxWV 181
"Danket dem Herren"

Choral BuxWV 185
"Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort"

Choral BuxWV 201
"Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn"

Canzona BuxWV 173
in G-moll/in G minor/Sol mineur

Magnificat noni toni BuxWV 205

Choral BuxWV 207
"Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott"

Choral BuxWV 193
"Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiss gar wohl"

Canzonetta BuxWV 169
in E-moll/in E minor/Mi mineur

Praeludium BWV 142
in E-moll/in E minor/Mi mineur


Répertoire n°39 :

Le passionnant périple a travers l'Allemagne du Nord, où règne l'incomparable dynastie des Schnitger, touche à sa fin. Outre les timbres féeriques de ces instruments - qui peut résister au charme des anches de Norden, à la splendeur de ses plein-jeux? 
- cette réalisation exemplaire nous a permis de prendre conscience de l'environnement acoustique des églises de cette partie de l'Europe du Nord, où la réverbération est notablement atténuée par les panneaux de bois sculpté qui habillent les voûtes. Le son est rond, chaleureux, mais net et incisif. La polyphonie darde tous ses feux. Buxtehude, puis Bach, conçurent leurs œuvres d'orgue pour ces écrins si particuliers.
A ces splendeurs, II faut ajouter la saveur des accords non tempérés, un mésotonique à Norden, un Werckmeister à Weener, qui éclairent les différentes tonalités, dans leurs plus secrètes résonances. Mais, bien évidemment, c'est à l'interprète que reviennent les plus glorieux lauriers. Son disque de Norden est un pur joyau. Il semble tout entier placé sous le signe de la Nativité : chorals de Noël, Préludes et Fugues bucoliques 
(BuxWV 152 et 145) où les registrations rappellent la tendresse des flûtiaux (In dulci jubilo), la magie de la crèche (Wie schön leuchtet), et le pittoresque d'une tradition séculaire (bourdon et rossignol dans la Canzonetta en ut). Jean-Charles Ablitzer, à la différence de Chapuis, se refuse à tout effet virtuose ou dramatique. Ses canzone sont parfaitement articulées, ses fugues chantent, ses chorals prient. Tout est clair, lisible, chaleureux. Les grands Préludes et Fugues refusent souvent les tutti éclatants et s'articulent sur les magnifiques jeux de fonds. Tel le grandiose diptyque en mi mineur qui clôt le disque de Weener, où le Prélude débute, mezzo voce, explicitant ainsi les sombres harmonies de cette tonalité pathétique. La Gigue finale, qu'illuminent les somptueuses mixtures et les anches pédale, n'en paraît que plus inspirée. Ce remarquable interprète use beaucoup des contrastes, mais non des ruptures d'atmosphère. Les nombreux chorals variés qui jalonnent ces deux volumes, témoignent de sa science infinie des registrations, mais aussi de son goût infaillible. Chaque variation se trouve liée à la suivante par un timbre (ou par une famille de timbres) identique, unissant la matière sonore et le discours musical. Ainsi des chorals "Danket dem Herren", "Nun lob, mein Seel" (réalisés à Weener) et "Ich ruf zu dir" (à Norden)... Jean-Charles Ablitzer possède une technique souveraine. Mais il n'a garde d'en faire étalage. Ses tempos ne sont jamais précipités; ils font vivre et respirer la polyphonie. La poésie supplée à l'éclat, l'émotion à l'étonnement. Aucun rythme, aucun contre-sujet n'échappe à la générosité du phrasé, même dans les moments endiablés tels que la dernière fugue du pimpant Prélude et fugue en sol mineur BuxWV 163. On s'interroge, dans les cycles de chorals variés ("Magnificat", "Nun lob,...") sur l'absence de certaines variations... Problèmes de mise en disque, d'édition? Aucune importance, ce qu'on entend est tellement édifiant!... 
Deux disques essentiels pour la connaissance de l'œuvre et de l'esthétique de Buxtehude. S'il fallait n'en retenir qu'un (hélas) parmi les cinq déjà parus? Norden.
 - Francis Albou 
Technique : 9/10. Lisibilité exemplaire. Grand respect des timbres et restitution extrêmement fidèle des différentes acoustiques. Un véritable régal!

"Chocdu Monde de la Musique n°148 :

... Tout a déjà été dit sur ce qui constitue aujourd'hui l'une des approches les plus équilibrées, homogènes et passionnantes de l'œuvre de Buxtehude. Aucun des orgues retenus n'est une de ces copies néo-baroques et fortement "mixturisées", aucune de ces recherches musicologiques (notamment en ce qui concerne le phrasé et les ornements) doctorales ou caricaturales n'a ici sa place. Buxtehude, présenté sur des instruments historiques, ronds et fruités, aux mixtures équilibrées et aux jeux d'anches et de fonds ravissants, est illustré par une interprétation vivante et chaleureuse qui soigne les détails sans exclure une certaine forme de liberté. De même les programmes des disques font-ils alterner chorals, toccatas, préludes et canzone, et excluent ainsi toute lassitude.
Sous les doigts d'Ablitzer, qui possède un sens aigu des couleurs, l'œuvre de Buxtehude évoque ainsi davantage les églises baroques d'Allemagne du Sud que les grandes et froides églises du Nord. - Hervé Elie.
Technique : 8/10

"Référencede Compact n°68 :

En couronnant, déjà, d'une "Référence" les volumes 2 et 3 de cette intégrale dans Compact n°54, Claude Noisette de Crauzat avait très bien décrit ce qui en faisait tout le prix. Il y a d'abord le choix des instruments, six magnifiques orgues d'Allemagne du Nord, un pour chacun des six disques que compte l'intégrale, captés dans une perspective naturelle et précise qui ne dissimule rien du contrepoint de Buxtehude et du jeu volatil d'Ablitzer.
Il faut ensuite vanter la conception de chaque volume qui nous offre, selon un programme habilement ordonné, son lot de pièces virtuoses, de variations et de chorals, sommaire coloré et varié à l'image de l'oeuvre foisonnant du grand précurseur de Bach. Le volume 4 contient par exemple l'admirable Choral-Fantaisie sur "Wie Schön der Morgenstern" ou encore la superbe Ciacona en ut mineur alors que le volume 5 est encadré de deux Preludium de haute volée, le premier en sol mineur et le second, aux proportions monumentales, en mi mineur.
Ablitzer restitue cette musique avec un sens fabuleux, qui lui paraît consubstantiel, de la respiration, du rebond rythmique et de la dissection des partitions. Comme dans ses volumes précédents, la netteté de ses attaques et de ses doigtés donne une lisibilité unique à la musique de Buxtehude. D'autant que l'organiste français utilise à merveille les ressources de ses instruments. Ainsi le pittoresque Schnitger de Norden (Basse-Saxe) donne-t-il, dans le volume 4, des rougeoiements de braise aux chorals les plus inspirés; et Ablitzer ne se prive pas de nous égayer du registre charmeur des chants d'oiseaux (Canzonetta, plage 12). Plus flamboyant, le Schnitger de la ville voisine de Weener rayonne de mille éclats dans les grands traits fulgurants des Toccatas et des Preludiums du volume 5. La capacité unique, pour ne pas dire magique, que possède Ablitzer de faire coïncider la nature des pièces avec la registration idéale sur un instrument qui semble conçu pour elles explique la réussite remarquable d'une intégrale qui est à une étape de son achèvement. Conclusion : une intégrale qui se poursuit sur les mêmes cimes. - Jean-Luc Macia
Technique Volume 4 : *****Le son est présent, bien défini et propre. L'aération est excellente et l'ambiance bien restituée. Les timbres sont naturels et très purs. Réussite remarquable. (Dominique Matthieu)Volume 5 : ****. L'aération est bonne et l'ambiance bien restituée. Le son est présent, défini et propre. Les timbres sont naturels.

Selected by "La Discothèque Idéale" de Flammarion/Compact
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