Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dietrich Buxtehude
LABELS: Accent
ALBUM TITLE: Buxtehude
WORKS: Membre Jesu Nostri: Fred-und Freudenreiche Hinfahrt
PERFORMER: Le Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken


Buxtehude dedicated his poignant cantata cycle Membra Jesu Nostri to his friend and patron Gustav Düben, in 1680. The seven cantatas, though musically autonomous, are linked by their Latin texts containing sections of the 13th-century poem Salve mundi salutare, and by their focal point which is the contemplation of seven parts of Christ’s body on the cross. Buxtehude creates rewarding contrasts by varying the colours
and the size of the ensembles.

This new version enters an already well-populated arena with at least 16 versions to choose from. While the recorded sound is bright and immediate and Sigiswald Kuijken’s stylistic criteria irreproachable, the result, to my ears at least, simply does not match some of the competing versions. Kuijken opts for a one-to-a-part performance in which the five voices provide both solo and ripieno elements. Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (Linn), The Netherlands Bach Society (Channel Classics) and Musica Lingua (Genuin) do the same but more successfully since the voices achieve a more mellifluous sound. Kuijken’s first soprano is uneven and her voice pinched in the uppermost register, ill-matching the boy-like timbre of the second soprano. Two other recordings, by Currende (Eufoda) and Capella Angelica (Raumklang) field larger vocal ensembles enabling them to make stronger contrasts between solo and ripieno textures. Kuijken’s disc contains many subtle insights and there are moments of intense fervour, but The Sixteen and The Netherlands Bach Society with similar resources, or Currende and Capella Angelica with larger forces, offer more passionate pictures of Buxtehude’s vocal masterpiece.


Nicholas Anderson