Siegbert Rampe

Buxtehude, Bach: Organ Music for Christmas Time

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What is the purpose of this disc of organ music? Let's check the English booklet notes: "This CD was not meant to contrast organ works by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)." But wait, let's check the French booklet notes: "The present CD offers a contrast of organ works by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)." And how about the German notes? "The present CD offers only as background a contrast of organ works by Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)." Whichever translator you believe (the German notes are organist Siegbert Rampe's own), the main idea, Rampe says, is to introduce "a tonally remarkable organ which is little known outside the USA." Or inside the USA, he might have added. The organ is the work of the Tacoma, WA, builder Paul Fritts, working from models from the Hamburg workshop of Arp Schnitger. That builder's career covered the later part of Buxtehude's life and the first part of Bach's. Fritts, Rampe explains, used various construction techniques from Schnitger organs, and used Bach's well-tempered tuning rather than the mean-tone tuning of Buxtehude's time. Thus, he says, "the organ works of Buxtehude and Bach may be performed in the desert of Arizona and sound the way they did around 1700 on open diapasons and reed stops like those found in North Germany and on flute stops like those found in the northern Netherlands -- the regions in which Schnitger was mainly active." Organ specialists must evaluate the truth of these statements, but the end result for the general listener is an unusually vivid disc of organ music. Start with the sound: working far from their favored haunts, the engineers from Germany's MDG label have managed to deliver a brilliant sound in a small, apparently wooden-walled space with no loss of detail. The program doesn't contain real "hits" by either composer and focuses mostly on chorale treatments from the Christmas season, bookended by a toccata of Buxtehude and a toccata and fugue by Bach. The chorale settings display the various stops of the organ in turn, and this can be likened to the experience of stepping into a glass dome in which the colors of the spectrum gradually reveal themselves. The disc is worth a space in an organ collection and is especially recommended for those with a stereo system equal to the task of hearing everything the organ has to offer.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
6:47
2
1:52
3
2:04
4
1:24
5
5:39
6
1:16
7
2:06
8
6:47
9
6:54
10
1:42
11
1:38
12
1:45
13
6:16
14
0:56
15
0:55
16
2:04
Toccata and Fugue, for organ in F major, BWV 540 (BC J39, 55, 73)
17
7:53
18
4:48
blue highlight denotes track pick