Buxtehude

Born: 1637

Died: 1707

Dietrich Buxtehude

Better known for his influence on JS Bach than for any of the influential music itself, Buxtehude was one of the greatest organists of his day.

Better known for his influence on JS Bach than for any of the influential music itself, Buxtehude was one of the greatest organists of his day. In 1668 he succeeded one Franz Tunder as organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck, among the prime musical posts in Germany. One of the conditions attached to the post was that the newcomer should marry the incumbent’s daughter – which Buxtehude duly did. Some 35 years later the German composer Johann Mattheson applied to be his successor and took his friend Handel with him. ‘We listened with much attention as good artists,’ he wrote, ‘but as a matrimonial alliance was proposed for which neither of us had the slightest inclination, we departed having had much enjoyment.’ All five of Buxtehude’s daughters were singularly lacking in appeal apparently. 

Lübeck became a mecca for German musicians. Bach, aged 20, is supposed to have walked the 200 miles from Arnstadt just to hear Buxtehude play, overstayed his leave of absence and almost lost his job. Whether or not the story is true, the effect of Buxtehude’s vocal and keyboard works on Bach, one of the most important composers in musical history, was crucial.

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