Buxtehude: Abendmusiken

Vox Luminis; Ensemble Masques/Lionel Meunier (Alpha Classics)

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Buxtehude Abendmusiken: Cantatas BuxWV 10, 34, 41, 60 & 62; Sonatas BuxWV 255 & 261
Vox Luminis; Ensemble Masques/Lionel Meunier
AlphaClassics ALPHA287 85:17 mins

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Vox Luminis’s BBC Music Magazine Award-winning disc commemorating the quincentenary of the Lutheran Reformation contained one eyebrow-raising lacuna: there was nothing by Buxtehude. Perhaps the mystery is explained by this alluring postscript devoted exclusively to the music of an organist JS Bach arguably admired above all others.

He esteemed him as a composer too, and must have devoured the Advent Abendmusiken concerts that made the Marienkirche the toast of musical Lübeck. Lionel Meunier’s crack consort teams up with the equally estimable Ensemble Masques to explore some of the music that might have been performed during those December divertissements. And they mix cantatas and trio sonatas with a judicious flair that, for instance, contrasts the gentle balm of Jesu, meine Freude, with an exquisitely characterised account of the perky B flat Trio Sonata from Op. 1, or balances Cantata BuxWV 41 (whose consoling final section is perfectly shaped so that its elements coalesce delectably), with a dark-hued sonata for gamba and violone.

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The waters that shimmer and lap around the opening Sonata of Gott hilf mir, and the gentle palpitations that launch the ensuing aria are so naturally, easefully achieved, that rival versions –  such as those by Ton Koopman and Roland Wilson – sound almost prosaic by comparison. Nothing is over-stated or under-nurtured; and Meunier always finds a deeply human dimension to Buxtehude’s piety that taps into the bürgerlich bonhomie of the sonatas. Rich, lively and truthful, the recorded sound consummates a seductively considered disc that pretty much never puts a foot wrong. Hanseatic heaven!

Paul Riley