Buxtehude: Harpsichord Works 1

COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
LABELS: Challenge Classics
WORKS: Harpsichord Works 1: La capricciosa,partite diverse sopra una ariad’Inventione; Suite in C; Suite in F;Suite in D minor; Courant simblein A minor; Suite in E minor;Aria: More Palatino etc
PERFORMER: Ton Koopman (harpsichord)

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The complete JS Bach cantata series behind him, where’s a chap to turn? Metaphorically following in the young Bach’s footsteps, Tom Koopman has made the pilgrimage to Buxtehude; and like his illustrious forebear has found himself utterly absorbed and similarly detained.

What he proposes is nothing less than a ‘complete works’ spread over a five-year recording project which pitches base camp in the under-represented foothills of the harpsichord works.

The delicious Op. 1 trio sonatas, the organ music, the well-known ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’, all lie ahead, but these inaugural discs – shared between three sets of variations and 12 suites – whet the appetite magnificently.

More urgent, less spacious than Lars Ulrich Mortensen’s late 1990s survey, Koopman’s trademark braggadocio is to the fore, every opportunity for improvisation seized with glee.

His Palatino variations go at quite a lick (shaving nearly a quarter off Mortensen’s duration), but any haste is all of a piece with his breezily forward-thrusting, momentum-led interpretations.

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The monumental 26-minute, 32-movement ‘La Capriccio’ set of variations (Buxtehude’s ‘Goldberg’ !), are skilfully modulated, the suites supple, and the bold rhetoric of the G minor Praeludium provides Koopman with a real show-stopper finale. Happily, however, the show must go on!