Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri

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COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
LABELS: Challenge
ALBUM TITLE: Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri
WORKS: Membra Jesu Nostri
PERFORMER: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman


Ton Koopman is not one to take shortcuts. The latest instalment of his Buxtehude project could have been achieved without lifting a finger, since he recorded Membra Jesu Nostri nearly 30 years ago. But he’s changed his approach since then. Back then, he used a large choir; this time he has reduced his group to 20 singers plus five soloists – a choir double the size of Masaaki Suzuki’s and quadruple the one-to-a-part ensembles of Harry Christophers’s Sixteen or the Netherlands Bach Society. Koopman has also added archlute to the continuo, but most crucially the new recording is at the brighter ‘choir’ pitch of A=465 Hz.

What hasn’t changed is Koopman’s easy rapport with Buxtehude’s supple piety. Koopman captures the fascinating creative tension between the text, which is rooted in Catholic mysticism, and a sense of Buxtehude the northern Lutheran. Rather than emphasising the sufferings of the crucified Christ, Koopman’s interpretation of the poems, prefaced by biblical extracts, celebrates the graces that flow from that suffering. The mood he creates is therefore often upbeat and filled with the airiness of Dutch churches, rather than the Catholic ‘odour of sanctity’. That said, his well-matched soloists sometimes skirt over the emotional landscapes of the text.


Paul Riley