Dieterich Buxtehude: VII. Suonate á doi, Violino & Viola da gamba, con Cembalo, Opera Prima. Sonata F major Op. 1 No 1 BuxWV 252, Günter and Leonore von Zadow (editors)

These trio sonatas were already famous in Buxtehude’s lifetime, but are less widely known today. Full of affect, invention and bizarre extremes, they are a prime example of the stylus phantasticus, an improvisatory style “free of all constraint” (Johann Gottfried Walther, 1732). Looking through a score of the sonatas, one is confronted with numerous contrasting tempo indications, often of very short duration, strict counterpoint that brushes shoulders with quasi-recitative sections and improvisatory flourishes that defy prediction. The result is some of the most moving baroque chamber music available to violists. To mark Buxtehude’s 300th anniversary year, Edition Güntersberg has published all fourteen sonatas in Op.1 and Op.2 in a new edition geared towards convenient practical use, but which nevertheless stays as close as possible to the original. Each contains an informative introduction which places the sonatas within the context of Buxtehude’s life and the chamber music of the day, a score and three part booklets plus a separate score for “Continuo-Cembalo” with an idiomatic realization of the continuo part for less experienced continuo players.

These sonatas were composed to be “appropriate as church and table music” (Buxtehude, 1684) and this first F major sonata is a good representative of the sets. It is loosely structured in four main movements: a sweet Vivace concluding with a throbbing Lento over chromatic chords from the harpsichord (or organ), a busy Allegro ending with an Adagio dialogue between viol and violin, a flowing Andante with a rich Grave final section full of suspensions, and a joyful concluding Presto. Buxtehude’s writing for the viol is challenging but idiomatic, and could not possibly be played on another instrument. Most of the time the viol remains an equal partner of the violin, but it never loses its own voice. Although there is no ornamentation notated in the original print (and therefore in this edition) it is almost inconceivable that this music was played without ornament, particularly in the Lento, Grave, Adagio and Largo sections. Perhaps some mention of this could have been useful in the introduction, although understandably any significant discussion of this subject must lie outside the scope such an introduction affords.

The edition is based on the print at the Uppsala University Library and remains very close to the original. All original accidentals are maintained (an excellent editorial policy) with clarifying editorial accidentals added in brackets where necessary, some awkward clefs in the viol and harpsichord are altered, original continuo figures have been maintained and missing bar lines added appropriately – all reasonable modernisations. Page turns have been well coordinated between the parts, and the layout is extremely clear throughout, particularly admirable in the full score. As an addition to the currently available publications of these sonatas (Vol. 14 of the Collected Works, Broude, 1994, and an alternative facsimile from Fuzeau which is useful but rather difficult to read from), such a clear and performer-friendly modern edition of these outstanding chamber works is most welcome.

Laura Vaughan,
Chelys Australis volume 6, 2007