The story of the young Johann Sebastian Bach walking hundreds of miles to hear Dietrich Buxtehude play the organ is familiar, but a flourishing trend among European historical-performance ensembles toward the performance and recording of Buxtehude's sacred music is showing that the relationship between Bach and Buxtehude went deeper than just a monumental style in organ music. Consider the Buxtehude cantata Jesu meine Freude, BuxWV 60 (Jesus, My Joy), recorded here, based on the same chorale as Bach's famous motet and seeming at least possibly to have been its model. More generally, the emotional fervor of Bach's religious works, expressed in devices borrowed from the realm of Italian opera, is everywhere in evidence in this collection of Buxtehude cantatas and motets. The individual building blocks in Buxtehude's case are smaller (except in the cantata Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, O Herr, BuxWV 41, which one might easily take for a Bach cantata), but his expressive imagination is operating in the same field, and his deployment of solo and chorus in ways that innovatively match the text is reminiscent of Bach. Buxtehude, working a generation before Bach, had to present his Italianate pieces not in music for church services, but in Abendmusiken, evening musicales, that were held in the Marienkirche in Lübeck where he was organist, but were extraliturgical and almost secular events. Some of his sacred music is of an inward, experimental nature, but these are broad, attractive pieces that will be appreciated by anyone who likes Bach's cantatas. The performances by the Flemish group Currende are superb, with a mixture of gravitas and seductive lyricism that would have delighted Buxtehude himself. The choral passages are sung by a small choir, diverging from the practice, frequent in Buxtehude and even in Bach, of using one voice per part. That practice makes more sense in the chamber-sized music of Buxtehude than it does for many other composers, but it's still nice to hear a choir, especially in music that involves chorales. No location (other than Leuven, Belgium) for the recording is given, but it sounds as though it was recorded in a church; the sound is spread out and a bit distant, but quite clear; again close, perhaps, to what Buxtehude's original audiences would have heard. Notes are in English, French, German, and Dutch, but Dutch speakers are left to fend for themselves in reading the texts. A strong pick for anyone wanting to sample Buxtehude's vocal music, and a superb Baroque vocal recording all around.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cantate Domino canticum novum, for SSB voices & continuo, BuxWV 12|
|Herzlich Lieb hab ich dich O Herr, for SATTB voices, 2 trumpets, 2 violins, 2 violas, violone or basson & continuo, BuxWV 41|
|Jesu meine Freude, for SSB voices, 2 violins, bassoon & continuo, BuxWV 60|
|Nimm von uns, Herr, for SATB voices, 2 violins, 2 violettas, basson & continuo, BuxWV 78|