The achievement of Dietrich Buxtehude is in many ways comparable to that of Bach, who walked a few hundred miles as a young man to hear Buxtehude play. The present work, Membra Jesu Nostri (Body Parts of Our Jesus), illustrates both his talents and the reasons he has never reached Bach's stature among ordinary listeners: his vocal music, especially, has a sort of for-connoisseurs-only quality that contrasts sharply with Bach's stirring public faith. This work, completed in 1680, is a cycle of seven cantatas for a small vocal-instrumental group, on Latin texts, each one addressed to a different body part of the crucified Christ (feet, knees, hands, side, chest, heart, and face, if you were wondering). The texts were by a medieval poet; exactly who is under debate, but the prime candidate in the 17th century, Bernhard of Clairvaux, was apparently admired by Luther himself. Thus this rather curious but certainly proto-Pietistic work. Each cantata is introduced by an instrumental "concerto" concluded by a choral couplet (the one-voice-per-part forces are defensible here); these have an almost mystical quality if done right, as they are here. There are several fine recordings of this work (the one by the Cantus Cölln under Konrad Junghänel is a standout), but there's a lot to recommend this one by La Petite Band under veteran Dutch historical-instrument specialist Sigiswald Kuijken. One factor is the lovely contrasting soprano pair of Anne-Katrin Schenck and Marie Kuijken, like an oboe and violin perhaps, who have a delightful blend in their duets. Another is the presence of the even more unusual cantata Fried- und Freudenreiche Hinfahrt, BuxWV 76-1, a sort of application of intricate chorale-prelude organ polyphony to vocal texture. All of the music-making is controlled, serious, and beautifully adapted to the inward, chamber dimensions of Buxtehude's sacred music. Accent's sound, bright and clear but not losing a sense of intimacy, is also very good. The recording was made at the ancient Begijnhofkerk in Sint Truiden, Belgium.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Membra Jesu Nostri, BuxWV 75|
|Fried- und Freudenreiche Hinfahrt, BuxWV 76|