Organ Music of the Day: Dieterich Buxtehude - Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Dick Sanderman - Schnitger Organ Zwolle)
Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637 – 1707) was a representative of North German Organ School and a famous composer of the Baroque period. Buxtehude composed music for various vocal and instrumental genres, and his works and personality had a strong influence on many composers, among them J.S.Bach. Today Buxtehude with Heinrich Schütz is considered as the most important German composer from the middle-Baroque period.
The prelude (Praeludium, Praeambulum) is a genre of keybord music with no pre-existing choral melody which was refined by Buxtehude. Praeludium C-dur, BuxWV 137, a perfect example of this type of organ composition in Stylus fantasticus, begins with a imposing virtuoso passagio for pedal solo and imitative episode with dotted rhythms which leads to a fugue. After the fugue folows the chaconne, e.g. variations of basso ostinato (ground bass) type. This theme is placed in a pedal part upon which the hands play imitative variations.The Praeludium ends with final virtuoso passages.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was a legendary Dutch Master organist, composer, and pedagogue of the 17th century. He is most renown for not only for his great polyphonic choral writing but also for being a founder of the North German Organ School. He is also frequently called "Maker of German organists" because of his influencial teaching activities that helped propell and flourish the renown North German Organ School. His most famous students include Samuel Scheidt, Heinrich Scheidemann, Melchior Schildt, Jacob Praetorius II, and Anders Duben among many others.
Sweelinck's keyboard style was influenced mostly by two major trends: Italian vocal polyphony and English virginal composers. From Italians the composer inherited beautiful linear counterpoint writing with mostly constant number of parts in the composition. From the English virginalists, he took over their virtuosic figurational writing which consisted of frequent passages, runs, arppeggios, fourishes, diminutions and various other types of figuration.
Ballo del Granduca is one of today's favorites pieces by Sweelinck. Its authenticity is doubtful as it might have been composed by Samuel Scheidt. The title of the piece reffers to the Balleto (or little dance of joyful character of the Renaissance) of the Great Duke. It is a set of theme on a dance tune and 4 variations, although the opening section is called variation 1. Variation 1 consists of many colourful and joyfully sounding chords with a characteristic long-short-short rhythms. It contains 5 sections each one with a duration of 4 measures and ends with strong closed cadences at the end of each phrase. The cadences are in G major (the tonic key of the piece), C major, A minor, G major, and G major. The first and the fifth phrases are repeated.
The second variation features many passages and runs in the right hand part with eighth or sixteenth notes rhythms while the left hand plays chordal accompaniment in two or three voices. In variation 3, the hands switch: eight note diminutions are tranfered to the left hand part and the accompanimental role is given to the right hand part. The 4th variation contains most of the virtuosic sixteenth note passages and diminutions in the right hand part which are so characteristic of Sweelinck's style. The variation cycle ends (variation 5) with eight note motion in the right hand part (in double thirds and sixths). Technically speaking, this is the most challenging variation and therefore a culmination of the entire set of variations.