Christopher Herrick

Buxtehude: The Complete Organ Works, Vol. 1

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Dietrich Buxtehude's time has come. After decades in which he was viewed as a precursor to Bach, or perhaps as the answer to the trivia question of which organist the young Bach walked hundreds of miles to hear, his works are now subjects of several major recording projects, and even a 1957 LP traversal of the composer's organ music by Walter Kraft has been unearthed and reissued in box-set form. Competing series of organ music are underway, including one by Dutch early music veteran Ton Koopman; another is inaugurated by this disc from well-established British performer Christopher Herrick, the former Westminster Abbey organist who has issued a popular series of Organ Fireworks discs. That gives you an idea as to his approach. Performing on a magnificent instrument at Denmark's Helsingør Cathedral, he delivers sharp, pleasing performances that stop just short of being flashy. In the larger preludes, toccatas, and polyphonic pieces (the older canzona and ciaccona are in evidence along with the fugue) he favors monumental sounds; in the chorale-based works (sample the Chorale Prelude "Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist," BuxWV 208, track 8) he is positively sensuous. This is all in contrast to Koopman's smaller-scale, fantastic approach that highlights rather than accepting as a given the improvisatory roots of Buxtehude's keyboard music. The listener can take his or her choice, or, perhaps better, mix purchases by the two, but those wanting technically top-notch new Buxtehude performances in the classic Bachian mold will, from the evidence of this disc, be able to turn to Herrick with confidence.

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