Buxtehude, Dietrich

born 1637, probably in Oldesloe, Holstein
died May 9, 1707, Lübeck

Danish organist and composer.

He held two organist positions before being appointed organist at the important Marienkirche in Lübeck (now in Germany), where he remained for almost 40 years. There he reinstated the tradition of the Abendmusik, an annual series of church concerts. His reputation was such that in 1705 Johann Sebastian Bach traveled 200 miles there to hear him play and ended up staying three months. Buxtehude's approximately 130 surviving vocal works, usually called cantatas, can instead be classified as concertos, chorale settings, and arias. All are imbued with a devout simplicity that contrasts strongly with the elaborations of their Bachian successors. He also composed almost 100 works for organ, some 20 keyboard suites, and more than 20 chamber sonatas.

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▪ Danish composer
Dietrich also spelled  Dieterich 
born 1637, probably in Oldesloe, Holstein
died May 9, 1707, Lübeck

      Danish or German organist and composer of church music (liturgical music), one of the most esteemed and influential composers of his time.

      His exact place of birth is uncertain, and nothing is known of his early youth. It is usually assumed that he began his musical education with his father, who was organist at Helsingborg (c. 1638–41) and at Helsingør (Elsinore; c. 1642–71), both then part of Denmark. Buxtehude settled at Lübeck in 1688 as organist of St. Mary's Church. There he gained such fame as a composer that the city became a mecca for musicians of northern Germany. The young Handel visited him in 1703, and in 1705 young Bach walked more than 200 miles to see him. Both young men hoped to succeed the master at Lübeck, but marriage to one of his daughters was a condition and each found it unacceptable.

      Buxtehude's duties as church organist included composing works for public festivals and for the marriages and funerals of the great merchant families of the city. He left a considerable amount of vocal and instrumental music, much of which was not recovered until the 20th century; much more certainly remains lost.

      His most important and influential works are considered to be those for organ, which include toccatas, preludes, fugues, chaconnes, pieces based on chorales, and a passacaglia to which J.S. Bach's Passacaglia in C Minor is indebted. The preludes are usually brief, and, with one exception, they are unlike Bach's in having no thematic connection with the fugues that follow them. Most of the harpsichord music has been lost.

      The vocal music consists chiefly of church cantatas (cantata) in a variety of forms, more than 100 of which are extant. Their texts are rarely liturgical; the Bible, the hymnbook, and sacred verse of the time are their main sources. All are imbued with a devout simplicity that contrasts strongly with the elaborations of their Bachian successors. It is possible that some were written for the famous Abendmusiken, concerts of mixed vocal and instrumental music held in St. Mary's in the late afternoons on five Sundays in the year. These performances, instituted by Buxtehude in 1673, became the pride of Lübeck, and their tradition was continued into the 19th century.

Additional Reading
Kerala J. Snyder, Dieterich Buxtehude, Organist in Lübeck (1987).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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