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 sets the chorale
tune in the soprano with simple but expressive
ornamentation. The chorale tune is the same as the
Passion chorale O Sacred Head Now Wounded, but the text
is not related to the subject matter of Holy Week.
Instead it deals with the subject of sin and
forgiveness. The text of the first verse reads as
follows, "O Lord, don't punish me poor sinner in thy
anger, with thy earnest wrath, otherwise I am lost, O
Lord I would that thou mightest forgive my sins and be
merciful, so that I might live eternally and escape the
pains of Hell."
The prelude is in the mature Buxtehude style. The
setting is gently expressive with some chromaticism.
Also Buxtehude breaks the third line of the chorale in
the soprano with some brief rests peppering the music
with a bit of rhetorical poignancy.
I created this Interpretation of the Choral Prelude:
"Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder" (BuxWV 178) for Oboe,
Classical Guitar & Bassoon.