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.
This chorale prelude sets one of the principal
Christmas tunes in the Lutheran liturgy. The text to
verses 2 through 7 was written by Martin Luther. The
text to the first verse reads as follows, "Praise be to
you Jesus Christ, that you were born as a man from a
virgin, it is true; That is why the hosts of angels
This chorale prelude is one of Buxtehude's longest.
Also Buxtehude does not treat the chorale melody in the
same manner as most of his other chorale preludes.
Rather than placing the chorale tune in the soprano, he
tosses it around in all of the voices in the same
manner as in the chorale fantasies of the previous
generation. An ornamented version of the first phrase
of the chorale appears in imitation in all of the
voices for the first 36 measures of the piece. At
measure 40-62, the second phrase of the chorale appears
in the pedal against free spinning counterpoint in the
other voices. Starting in measure 71 the third phrase
of the chorale appears in the bass and soprano in
alternation. From measure 99-139 Buxtehude plays with
the fifth phrase of the chorale melody in a contrasting
triplet rhythm with echo effects between two different
divisions of the organ. The last 15 measures of the
chorale prelude make brief reference to the sixth and
final phrase of the chorale and pin a spectacular
little coda on the end of the piece.
Although originally created for Organ, I created this
Interpretation of the Choral Prelude: "Gelobet seist
du, Jesu Christ" (BuxWV 188) for Brass Quartet (Bb
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, French Horn & Tuba).