Buxtehude: Sacred cantatas/White/Aradia Ensemble

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Charming, functional, well-crafted, tuneful–all of these describe the music in the seven cantatas performed on this fine recording. Of course, Dietrich Buxtehude is best known for his organ works, and in his own time was acclaimed for his exceptional performing skills on that instrument, but his cantatas deserve attention for the above reasons and as worthy examples of the developing genre that would significantly occupy later masters such as J.S. Bach. Neither the vocal nor instrumental music is overly dramatic or even harmonically adventurous, and the melodies remain relatively straightforward and free of ornament. That said, these are works that are immediately appealing on the most fundamental level–ear-catching tunes (well-designed for the designated voice or voices) and predominantly lively rhythms, and the simple, direct manner of expressing the sentiments of the texts.

The star here, if there is only one, is countertenor Matthew White, one of today’s outstanding singers in any vocal category, and he gets the lion’s share of the solo work. His performance in Wenn ich, Herr Jesu, habe dich (If I have Thee, Lord Jesu), the most emotionally compelling of all the cantatas on the program, with its strong bass line and minor-key setting, finds just the right expressive mood, and his naturally flowing, clear, golden-toned delivery makes this a highlight worth repeated hearings. The other singers are first-rate professionals who, along with their instrumental colleagues, offer unaffected performances that show the kind of polish and refinement we expect from today’s more accomplished period-practitioners. The vibrant yet intimate sound, from Toronto’s Grace Church on the Hill, is ideal for these forces and this music. Another winner for both Buxtehude and for listeners who enjoy German Baroque vocal repertoire. [12/23/2004]

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Recording Details:

DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE - Sacred Cantatas: Was frag' ich nach der Welt BuxWV 104; Jesu, meine Freud und Lust BuxWV 59; Sicut Moses BuxWV 97; Wenn ich, Herr Jesu, habe dich BuxWV 107; In te, Domine, speravi BuxWV 53; Jubilate Domino BuxWV 64; Wie schmeckt es so lieblich und wohl BuxWV 108; also Passacaglia BuxWV 161 (arr. for strings by K. Mallon)

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