Dieterich Buxtehude

Markus Rathey

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Dieterich Buxtehude

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Dieterich Buxtehude (b. c. 1637–d. 1707) was one of the leading German composers in the 17th century. During his lifetime he was already highly regarded as a composer and performer of organ music, as can be seen from both the wide dissemination of his music and the fact that Johann Sebastian Bach traveled to Lübeck in 1705–1706 to study with the famed organ master. Though he was mostly known as an organ composer, Buxtehude’s compositional legacy also includes a large number of vocal works as well as sonatas for string ensemble; the latter were even printed during the composer’s lifetime. Buxtehude was also influential as a musical entrepreneur. Having inherited the custom of public organ concertos from his predecessor, Franz Tunder, Buxtehude expanded these Abendmusiken (evening music) into a regular concert series. Due to Buxtehude’s fame as organist, the beginning of scholarly interest in the second half of the 19th century focused on his keyboard music, leading to a first edition by Philipp Spitta (who was also an influential Bach scholar) in 1875–1876 of Buxtehude’s then known organ works. Editions of his instrumental sonatas and some vocal works would follow over the next fifty years, but these works never reached the recognition of his keyboard music. The most important scholarly treatise on Buxtehude in these early years was a 1913 book by the French music historian André Pirro, who provided a comprehensive account of Buxtehude’s life and works that spanned more than five hundred pages. When the German publisher Ugrino embarked on an edition of Buxtehude’s works (especially his vocal pieces) in 1924, this project sparked a renewed interest in his compositions and led to a more frequent number of performances of his vocal works, as well as a mushrooming of scholarly essays on his life and work. Buxtehude scholarship saw a first peak in the 1950s and 1960s, with numerous studies on the sources for his music, the style of his works, and the religious underpinnings of his vocal compositions. This “peak” culminated in the publication of a thematic catalog of his works and a comprehensive bibliography. A new stage of scholarship was reached in the mid-1980s with Kerala J. Snyder’s Buxtehude biography, which summarized the state of more than one hundred years of research but also made new and significant contributions. During the same time, studies on Buxtehude’s sonatas appeared, which, for the first time, drew scholarly attention to the instrumental ensemble works; two collections of essays further added important details to our knowledge about the North German composer. In 1987 the first volume of Buxtehude’s Collected Works (edited by K. Snyder and others) appeared. It was a continuation of the Ugrino edition, which had ceased to appear in 1971 after eight volumes, and now presents the works of Buxtehude in a reliable scholarly edition. The (so far) last significant event in Buxtehude scholarship was the “Buxtehude year,” 2007, which saw the publication of a revised edition of Snyder’s Dieterich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck, as well as a number of conferences and published essays on all areas of Buxtehude’s life and works.

Article.  8469 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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