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COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
LABELS: Challenge
ALBUM TITLE: Buxtehude: Vocal Works, Vol. 8
WORKS: Vocal Works Vol. 8: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BuxWV 101; O clemens, o mitis, BuxWV 82; Gen Himmel zu dem Vater mein, BuxWV 32 etc
PERFORMER: Bettina Pahn, Dorothee Wohlgemuth, Miriam Feuersinger (sopranos), Maarten Engeltjes (alto), Tilman Lichdi (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman


Ton Koopman has a habit of turning endings into beginnings. When he and his Amsterdam forces completed their Bach cantata cycle they reassigned their completist gaze to Buxtehude, and since 2005 have been working their way through the ‘opera omnia’ to this final recording. Whatever follows, the Buxtehude project is arguably Koopman’s most important achievement: groundbreaking, ear-opening, comprehensive, scholarly, answering questions, raising others. But above all it’s sounded like a labour of love. And still the discoveries flow. The first disc of this volume ends with a recently disinterred Canon that hypnotically chases its own tail, followed by an animated gigue, both fragments from lost music for a Lubeck wedding. There’s an energised Lauda anima mea Dominum that suggests a nod to Monteverdi’s Madrigals of War, and a richly scored six-voice Gott hilf mir that depicts the lapping of the flood waters with a quiet yet telling menace. For all that Buxtehude’s vocal writing is pre-eminently singable, it’s nonetheless his instrumental palette that grabs the ear with a pair of violettas here, a buzzing dulcian there. And it’s the sheer effortless sparkle and freshness of the playing that continually ambushes the listener as Koopman coaxes sectional gear changes that always exude a suave inevitability. Perhaps Bettina Pahn isn’t the most winsome of sopranos in her upper register, but the ever-dependable Klaus Mertens and Tilman Lichdi on elegant form do not disappoint. Bravo Buxtehude – and thank you Ton Koopman!


Paul Riley