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.
One of Buxtehude's most interesting chorale preludes.
The chorale melody appears ornamented in the soprano
range. The chorale deals with Luther's doctrine of the
fall and salvation of mankind. The text of the first
verse reads as follows: "Through Adam's fall the nature
and existence of man has become entirely corrupt, We
have inherited that same poison so that we cannot
recover without God's comfort, which has redeemed us
from the great wrong, into which the serpent forced Eve
to take upon herself God's wrath." Other verses deal
with how mankind is redeemed from the fall.
Buxtehude makes numerous references to the text of the
chorale in the free contrapuntal voices of the chorale
prelude. During the first line of the chorale the bass
line moves almost entirely by downward leap, depicting
a fall. At the third line of the chorale, in which the
text refers to the poison that came upon mankind
through the fall, Buxtehude sends a descending
chromatic line contrapuntally through all of the voices
besides the cantus firmus. The descending chromatic
line typically represented death in Baroque music, and
Buxtehude may have been alluding to the doctrine that
the result of the fall was that death came upon
I created this Interpretation of the Choral Prelude:
"Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt" (BuxWV 183) for
Oboe, Classical Guitar & Cello.