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 Praeludium in D minor is a classic five-section
Buxtehude praeludium. It consists of three free
toccata-like sections and two fugal sections. While in
many Buxtehude praeludia only the first free toccata
section is over 20 measures, all three of the free
sections of this praeludium are around 20 measures in
length. The middle free section also contains a brief
imitative passage of about five measures which spins
back into improvisatory passage work. Buxtehude often
allows the second and third free toccata sections to
grow organically out of the preceding fugues as he does
in this praeludium. In this piece, the first fugue
appears to grow spontaneously out of the preceding free
passage work, as the end of the toccata section uses
motivic material similar to the fugue subject. The two
fugues are thematically related, the second fugue
subject being a triple time variation on the first.
Sometimes Buxtehude ends his praeludia with a surprise
soft conclusion, but this one ends with a bang on a
six-voice chord with double pedal. Another note about
this piece, Sergey Prokofiev made a transcription of
the Praeludium for piano.
I created this Arrangement of the Praeludium (3
Toccatas & 2 Fugues) in D Minor (BuxWV 140) for
Woodwind Quartet (Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet & Bassoon).