Ton Koopman

Buxtehude: Opera Omnia VIII

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Ton Koopman's ongoing series of Buxtehude's complete works, with the organ music played by the master himself, continues to be a pleasure for the general listener as well as an entry in specialist discussions in issues of Buxtehude performance. Koopman's program is performed on an organ in the Jacobi Church in Hamburg, probably the nearest thing to an authentic instrument, for the organs used by Buxtehude himself at points farther north have been lost. It's an agile, colorful instrument, bright rather than massive, with sharp contrasts among its quite various registers. Annotator Christoph Wolff, who has a rare talent among musicologists for making unfamiliar material come alive for the general listeners, stresses the improvisatory roots of Buxtehude's keyboard style. The music sounds somewhat like Bach and can be made to sound a lot like Bach by performers who are reasoning from what came next. Koopman avoids this. You can compare his lively, somewhat fantastic reading of the the Praeludium in C major, BuxWV 137, a big piece that has been played by organists since E. Power Biggs, with other versions to get an idea of the flavor of his playing. Then go on to the rest of the album, which is consistently engaging in its lightness and colorful contrasts, with startling effects in the preludes and quietly lyrical chorale pieces and contrapuntal works. The organ is recorded with absolute clarity. Recommended for those following Koopman's series, and indeed for those looking for a place to start with it.

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