Dietrich Buxtehude is probably most familiar to modern
classical music audiences as the man who inspired the
young Johann Sebastian Bach to make a lengthy
pilgrimage to Lubeck, Buxtehude's place of employment
and residence for most of his life, just to hear
Buxtehude play the organ. But Buxtehude was a major
figure among German Baroque composers in his own right.
Though we do not have copies of much of the work that
most impressed his contemporaries, Buxtehude
nonetheless left behind a body of vocal and
instrumental music which is distinguished by its
contrapuntal skill, devotional atmosphere, and raw
intensity. He helped develop the form of the church
cantata, later perfected by Bach, and he was just as
famous a virtuoso on the organ.
In this chorale prelude, Buxtehude ornaments the
chorale tune, placing it the soprano. The chorale was
sung at baptismal services and the text deals with the
baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The first verse
reads as follows: "Christ our Lord came to Jordan,
according to the will of his father, and was baptized
by Saint John in order to fulfill his work and office.
In that he made a bath, to wash us from our sins, and
also drown out bitter death through his own blood and
wounds, a new life came into existence."
In this chorale prelude Buxtehude often adds bits of
ornamentation that depict images or ideas from the text
of the chorale. The beginning of the chorale uses a
repeated spinning ornamental figure which may depict
the rapids of the Jordan River. In the sixth line of
the prelude when the chorale text refers to sin,
Buxtehude throws in a bit of chromaticism, a typical
Baroque reference to sin. Also in the last line of the
chorale which refers to a new life coming into
existence Buxtehude adds an extra fifth contrapuntal
voice to the texture perhaps depicting something new
that has come into existence.
I created this Interpretation of the Choral Prelude:
"Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" (BuxWV 180) for
Flute & Piano.