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GRAMOPHONE (07/2016)
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Reviewer: David Vickers

Paul Hillier and his Theatre of Voices explore the circle of church organists and composers in northern Germany and the Baltic region that were all linked in some way to Buxtehude. One of his possible teachers in Copenhagen was the Danish court kapellmeister Kaspar Förster, whose psalm Confitebor tibi Domine offers a hint of what the composer might have learnt in Rome from Carissimi. Another of Buxtehude’s probable teachers was the organist Johann Lorentz, whose successor Christian Geist is represented by the paradoxical mood of sensuality and mournfulness in Die mit Tränen säen. In 1668 Buxtehude succeeded the recently deceased Frans Tunder as kantor at the Marienkirche in Lübeck (and the new organist married his predecessor’s daughter), and Tunder’s Dominus illuminatio mea is given a lightly intimate performance.


One of Buxtehude’s pupils was Nicolaus Bruhns, whose magnificent De profundis clamavi for solo bass is sung with ardent gravitas and virtuosity by Jakob Bloch Jespersen, and the violin ritornellos are played exquisitely by Jesenka Balic Zunic and Karolina Radziej. Buxtehude’s own chorale-based trio setting of Jesu, meine Freude is sung and played beautifully. Gott, hilf mir is conceived on a more elaborate scale; its five-part vocal ensemble and fivepart strings convey the emotional weight of the penitential cry for God to save the suffering soul, and Hillier’s lovely performance is on a par with the very finest that the Buxtehude discography has to offer.

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