Buxtehude: Chamber Music, Vol. 1 – Sonatas: BuxWV 266, 269, 271, 272, 273, Anh. 5, 268, 267

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COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Chamber Music, Vol. 1 – Sonatas: BuxWV 266, 269, 271, 272, 273, Anh. 5, 268, 267
PERFORMER: Catherine Manson, David Rabinovich (violin), Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba), Ton Koopman (harpsichord, organ), Mike Fentross (lute), Christine Sticher (violone)


Five years into his all-embracing Buxtehude project, Ton Koopman has reached the chamber music. And if the title ‘sonatas from manuscript sources’ suggests he’s been clambering around dusty Danish libraries or sequestered in scholarly archives, in fact the music has long been published, ‘manuscript sources’ denoting the eight remaining (extant) sonatas not domiciled in the Opp. 1 & 2 sets Buxtehude published in the mid-1690s.

Koopman includes all eight despite doubts in some quarters about the attribution of the D major Gamba Sonata and its D minor cousin with violin (recreated from an organ transcription). Lars Ulrik Mortensen and his colleagues omitted them on their eloquent, beautifully-recorded 1994 Dacapo disc now available on Naxos. But Koopman also differs in welcoming lute into a continuo line-up that never hides its infectious contribution under a bushel. The lute allows for an extra layer of artful ‘scoring’ which underpins music-making bursting with suave urbanity and razor-sharp reactions to Buxtehude’s turn-on-a-sixpence mood swings. 


A spirit of playfulness invades much of Koopman’s guiding spirit, but this is true chamber music – deserving to be as well-known and cherished as the quartets of Beethoven – and the lute’s is one voice among supremely creative conversational equals. With ‘budget’ Mortensen a steal, buy both: the recordings complement each other and the music dazzles. Paul Riley