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Quemadmodum desiderat cervus, BuxWV 92

Dietrich Buxtehude (b. 1637 - d. 1707)

James Gilchrist

James Gilchrist

Composer
Dietrich Buxtehude (b. 1637 - d. 1707)
Composition Year
1690
Artists
Sophie Gent [violin], Sarah McMahon [cello], David Miller [lute], Jonathan Cohen [harpsichord]

Programme Note Writer:
© Norah O' Leary

Dietrich Buxtehude was a composer and organist believed to be of Danish origin; however no documents exist to verify the exact date and place of his month and his nationality is much disputed. Buxtehude was most famous during his lifetime as an organist. He presided over the two organs of the Marienkirche in Lübech from 1668 until his death almost forty years later. He attracted numerous pupils at this post and in 1705 Johann Sebastian Bach made a 300 mile trip on foot to hear him play.

Buxtehude directed a renowned series of church concerts every year before and during Advent, known as Abendmusiken. Although established by his predecessor Franz Tunder [1614-1667] Buxtehude expanded the fame of the concerts, receiving sponsorship from local business men, which allowed him to stage semi-dramatic vocal works and hire soloists from further afield. The works performed at these concerts were scored for smaller-scale ensembles, for between one and four solo vocal parts with one to five instruments.

The majority of Buxtehude’s vocal works were small-scale pieces such as Quemadmodum desiderat cervus. Pieces like Quemadmodum may have been performed at Abendmusiken concerts and during services although it is equally possible that they were used outside of church, in private devotion or informal gatherings. It is also plausible that these works were performed at the Swedish court in Stockholm where the Kapellmeister, Gustaf Düben [c.1628-1690] gathered an immense collection of vocal music, including the majority of Buxtehude’s output.

The preferred musical genre for private devotion or gatherings was the strophic aria for solo voice and continuo. The words for such pieces were taken from current German or Latin devotional poetry rather than the 16th Century texts by Luther. The text is usually intimate and refers to the believer’s sweet and passionate relationship with Christ.

One special type of composition that occurred frequently in sacred music of the 17th-century is the ciaconna, a variation setting over a repeated basso ostinato. Quemadmodum desiderat cervus belongs to this genre; the ostinato is established at the beginning of the instrumental introduction and is just two bars in length. Against this, Buxtehude provides a brilliant selection of figures for highly virtuosic upper voices, ranging from soulful slurs to elated enthusiastic melismas.

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Quemadmodum desiderat cervus, BuxWV 92

Composer: Dietrich Buxtehude (b. 1637 - d. 1707)
Performance date: Wednesday 1st July 2015
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Dietrich Buxtehude (b. 1637 - d. 1707)
Work Title Quemadmodum desiderat cervus, BuxWV 92
Composition Year 1690
Artist(s) Sophie Gent [violin], Sarah McMahon [cello], David Miller [lute], Jonathan Cohen [harpsichord]
Performance Date Wednesday 1st July 2015
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Coffee Concert
Duration 00:06:00
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation T-solo, 2vn,vc,lute,hpd
Programme Note Writer © Norah O' Leary

Dietrich Buxtehude was a composer and organist believed to be of Danish origin; however no documents exist to verify the exact date and place of his month and his nationality is much disputed. Buxtehude was most famous during his lifetime as an organist. He presided over the two organs of the Marienkirche in Lübech from 1668 until his death almost forty years later. He attracted numerous pupils at this post and in 1705 Johann Sebastian Bach made a 300 mile trip on foot to hear him play.

Buxtehude directed a renowned series of church concerts every year before and during Advent, known as Abendmusiken. Although established by his predecessor Franz Tunder [1614-1667] Buxtehude expanded the fame of the concerts, receiving sponsorship from local business men, which allowed him to stage semi-dramatic vocal works and hire soloists from further afield. The works performed at these concerts were scored for smaller-scale ensembles, for between one and four solo vocal parts with one to five instruments.

The majority of Buxtehude’s vocal works were small-scale pieces such as Quemadmodum desiderat cervus. Pieces like Quemadmodum may have been performed at Abendmusiken concerts and during services although it is equally possible that they were used outside of church, in private devotion or informal gatherings. It is also plausible that these works were performed at the Swedish court in Stockholm where the Kapellmeister, Gustaf Düben [c.1628-1690] gathered an immense collection of vocal music, including the majority of Buxtehude’s output.

The preferred musical genre for private devotion or gatherings was the strophic aria for solo voice and continuo. The words for such pieces were taken from current German or Latin devotional poetry rather than the 16th Century texts by Luther. The text is usually intimate and refers to the believer’s sweet and passionate relationship with Christ.

One special type of composition that occurred frequently in sacred music of the 17th-century is the ciaconna, a variation setting over a repeated basso ostinato. Quemadmodum desiderat cervus belongs to this genre; the ostinato is established at the beginning of the instrumental introduction and is just two bars in length. Against this, Buxtehude provides a brilliant selection of figures for highly virtuosic upper voices, ranging from soulful slurs to elated enthusiastic melismas.