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 prelude sets the melody of a chant from the
Catholic Gregorian chant repertoire that was sung at
Christmas time. The text of the chant reads as follows,
"A boy is born in Bethlehem that is why Jerusalem
rejoices. The word of the father in the highest has
taken on the flesh of a human body and as Gabriel
announced, a virgin conceived a son." The cantus firmus
appears with some embellishment in the soprano. Most
Buxtehude preludes with an embellished chorale melody
in the soprano are in common time, but this one is in
3/2 time, perhaps because the source is a chant rather
than a chorale.
Although originally created for Organ, I created this
Interpretation of the Chorale prelude: "Puer Natus in
Bethlehem" (BuxWV 217) for Double-Reed Quartet (2
Oboes, English Horn & Bassoon).