BUXTEHUDE Opera Omnia XVIII
This marks the last issue in the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra’s traversal of the music of Dieterich Buxtehude, a landmark acknowledged by Ton Koopman in a short text in the accompanying booklet. This volume is devoted to ‘Sacred concertos, arias and miscellaneous pieces’, dating from the composer’s nearly 40 years’ residency in Lübeck. Any fears that the concluding volume might be an assortment of odds and ends are unwarranted (the little six-part canon is rather lovely). In the event, several of the sacred concertos included here are quite extended pieces, ranging in mood from the joyous Eastertide Surrexit Christus hodie to the inward, penitential O clemens, o mitis. There’s an equally rich variety of scorings and forms, from the sacred dialogue of Herr, ich lasse dich nicht to chorale-based works: the famous Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme receives two extended settings. Truth to tell, some of the longer numbers may possibly overstay their welcome; but overall there’s plenty of very fine music here (the pithier Meine Seele, willtu ruhn is particularly engaging).
A particular favourite scoring seems to be for two sopranos and bass: of the soloists, Klaus Mertens distinguishes himself, whereas the two sopranos are generally not as well matched as one might wish, which proves a problem in some of the solo numbers as well. In the final number, Gott hilf mir, denn das Wasser geht mir, they are joined by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir, which some may find disconcerting, given the exclusive prevalence of soloists hitherto. Throughout, Koopman himself leads the instrumental ensemble from the organ. A pleasing pungency is lent the continuo line by the presence of the dulcian, a touch whose charm rarely palls. Barring the slow introduction to Surrexit Christus, in which the tuning goes slightly awry, Koopman’s valedictory plea on behalf of Buxtehude’s music, touchingly expressed in writing, is stylishly backed up in performance.