Monday, May 9, 2005

Dietrich Buxtehude, 1637-1707



Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude was born in 1637 and was among the most influential composers of this time. He primarily wrote for organ; his compositions included twenty preludes and fugues/fugal works, fantasias, and choral preludes. In addition, Buxtehude wrote chamber music, motets, and over a hundred cantatas.

As a youth, he studied music with his organist father. In 1688, the 51-year-old Buxtehude became the organist of St. Mary's Church in Lübeck, Germany, where would remain for the rest of his life. While there, Buxtehude became quite famous as both an organist and composer. North German musicians traveled many miles to see and hear the great master--among them Handel, and later the young J.S. Bach, who walked more than 200 miles from Arnstadt in order to hear, meet, and study with Buxtehude for several months. You may remember that the students of Moravian College recently "reenacted" that walk last March in celebration of Bach's birthday.

At Goldberg Web, I found the following:

Having been born half a century after Heinrich Schütz, the 'father of German musicians', and a little less than half a century before J. S. Bach , Dietrich Buxtehude ... was placed in the unique position of being a living link between the founder of Protestant Baroque music and its greatest master.

Goldberg Web also tells us that, although he was a famous organist, Buxtehude (unlike Bach) never actually served as cantor of a church, so he wasn't required to write sacred vocal music as part of his official duties. His many sacred vocal compositions were then likely "expressions of spontaneous emotion," using scriptures, church hymns, and poetry as textual sources.

Buxtehude died 298 years ago today in Lübeck.

Read more on Buxtehude here. Listen to some of his organ music here.

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