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Graham Powell

Buxtehude Praeludium In C Buxwv137

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I played Buxtehude's Praeludium in C BuxWV137 as a voluntary last Sunday. As I was practising it, I realised that the first fugal subject is written out as a dotted quaver/semiquaver rhythm, yet in my experience it is always played twice as fast as this. I use the Breitkopf edition, but I'm sure this is also the case in every other edition I've seen.

 

Would anyone like to suggest why this is? Has anyone on this board played it (or heard it played) as written?

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Ah yes, the so-called Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne.

 

I'm not entirely sure I follow you, Graham, but if I'm guessing correctly you are referring to the imitative passage that commences at bar 12 after the opening flourishes (I wouldn't call it a fugue; that begins at bar 36 in my Bärenreiter edition).

 

I have two recordings of this piece: one by Ulrik Spang-Hanssen (in his complete Buxtehude cycle) and an old LP by Helmut Walcha on the Schnitger at Cappel. Spang-Hanssen is rhythmically very free. He concentrates on the rhetoric and doesn't let the actual note values on the page get in its way. So it's quite difficult to tell what his basic speed is. I wouldn't say he plays the dotted passage twice as fast as the opening, but he most certainly gets into the fast lane here and trips away at a very brisk pace. Walcha's opening is almost staid compared to Spang-Hanssen's, though he too is not rigid with his rhythm. The basic beat is more evident and he clearly maintains it during the dotted passage, thus obeying the notation.

 

The considerable freedom that Spang-Hanssen employs is an example of the stylus phantasticus in operation - you may remember that we had a thread about this a while back. Personally I prefer Walcha's more deliberate speed for the dotted passage, but this very much puts the onus on the organist to keep the sense of movement going - this section can so easily "sag", especially on a traditional British instrument.

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I'm not entirely sure I follow you, Graham, but if I'm guessing correctly you are referring to the imitative passage that commences at bar 12 after the opening flourishes (I wouldn't call it a fugue; that begins at bar 36 in my Bärenreiter edition).

 

Yes, that's the bit I was referring to - sorry I wasn't very clear. I'm listening to the Spang-Hanssen recording now, and you're right, he certainly takes it at a gallop. I don't have the Walcha recording, but I do have another Buxtehude cycle, played by Rene Saorgin at Alkmaar and Altenbruch. He doesn't employ the rhythmic freedom that Spang-Hanssen does, but still takes the section referred to approximately twice as fast as what has gone before.

 

I first heard this work over 30 years ago on a Kenneth Gilbert LP - again, he played this section approximately twice as fast, and this obviously shaped the way I subsequently played the music. So much so that when learning it I subconsciously adopted the x2 tempo - obviously one of the pitfalls of listening to others rather than reading the page properly! That said, I prefer the faster speed.

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I'm not too sure about the tempi in this particular piece (I play the G min Prelude). However I do know that no original source of Buxtehude's organ music services. Therefore it is always good to cross-check with different editions e.g. Barenreiter and Breitkopf and also the Beloti edition which is on two staves.

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Therefore it is always good to cross-check with different editions e.g. Barenreiter and Breitkopf and also the Beloti edition which is on two staves.

The sources are such a mess that I can't help feeling that this is a case where you might as well get hold of one good edition and decide for yourself how far to rewrite the notes on the page. A bit irresponsible of me, maybe, but it seems to me that if you have the critical faculties, your decisions are as likely to be viable as the editor's and, at the very least, in line with contemporary performance practice (which I'd guess is what led to the mess in the first place).

 

Reviews gave Albrecht's Bärenreiter edition the edge (just) over Breitkopf, but that is highly regarded too. The Beloti I'd not heard of, but I like the sound of it being printed on two staves. I used to use the Hedar's edition (Wilhelm Hansen/Chester), but that has been well superseded now.

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The sources are such a mess that I can't help feeling that this is a case where you might as well get hold of one good edition and decide for yourself how far to rewrite the notes on the page. A bit irresponsible of me, maybe, but it seems to me that if you have the critical faculties, your decisions are as likely to be viable as the editor's and, at the very least, in line with contemporary performance practice (which I'd guess is what led to the mess in the first place).

 

Reviews gave Albrecht's Bärenreiter edition the edge (just) over Breitkopf, but that is highly regarded too. The Beloti I'd not heard of, but I like the sound of it being printed on two staves. I used to use the Hedar's edition (Wilhelm Hansen/Chester), but that has been well superseded now.

 

Tempi in North German Praeludia need to be related to one another, but they needn't be the same! Twice as fast is good!

B

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I'm not too sure about the tempi in this particular piece (I play the G min Prelude).  However I do know that no original source of Buxtehude's organ music services.  Therefore it is always good to cross-check with different editions e.g. Barenreiter and Breitkopf and also the Beloti edition which is on two staves.

 

In the open ing do youn play (pedals) G G C D E flat (as my edition demands) or G B flat C D Eflat... I also have similar concerns about the D major when, in the bar a couple before the end I play a pedal b rather than the indicated f#.

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I used to play G B flat (as per Hedar), but having got myself a better edition (Bärenreiter) I now play GG. I don't know what the Breitkopf reading is.

 

I think this raises an interesting point though. As Jonathan points out, no primary source of Buxtehude's organ music survives. We are dependent upon the decisions of editors who have studied and assessed the surviving sources thoroughly. Unless we have undertaken a similar study in similar depth to the point where we can take equally informed textual decisions we should stick to what the best editors advise. There really is no excuse whatsoever for simply cherry-picking the readings we just happen to like most. And this goes for any music, not just Buxtehude.

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I used to play G B flat (as per Hedar), but having got myself a better edition (Bärenreiter) I now play GG. I don't know what the Breitkopf reading s.

Breitkopf has GBb, and no comment in the textual notes.

 

Paul

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Well there's fascinating (as a Welsh colleague of mine would say).

 

If I recall correctly the Bärenreiter edition is later than the Breitkopf one, but only insignificantly and I'm not sure whether it had access to any more sources of this piece (since, not having Breitkopf, there is no way I can check). When you have two up-to-date editors giving conflicting readings like this, all the poor performer can do is, indeed, to cherry-pick.

 

Of course, what one should do is to get both editions, read the critical commentaries and come to an understanding of why the editors have taken their different decisions. But you can understand why performers don't bother. And I won't, that's for sure. <_<

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If I recall correctly the Bärenreiter edition is later than the Breitkopf one, but only insignificantly

I don't have the Bärenreiter; but the Breitkopf, rather oddly, has 1971 on the title page of this volume, but 1975 at the end of the (very brief) textual notes.

 

Paul

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Rats. I couldn't let it go.

 

Albrecht's Bärenreiter edition is dated 1995. His commentary on BuxWV 149 begins as follows:

 

Hauptquelle C1 [Lund (Schweden), Universitetsbibliothek, Handskriftsavdelningen, Sammlung Wenster] (datiert: 5 April/15 Mai 1714)

Nebenquelle D1-2 [D1: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung, Mus. Ms. 2681; D2 ist eine Abschrift aus D1]. E1-5 [E1: Bruxelles, Bibliothèque du Conservatiore Royal de Musique, U 26659 (Nachlass Wagener); E2-5 enthalten die gleichen Stücke in derselben Reihenfolge wie E1 - E2-4 sind Abschriften aus E1, E5 aus E3.]

 

Für takt 1-20 gilt E1 als Hauptquelle; die Variante des Anfangs nach C1 wurde in den Anhang verweisen: Von den zwei überlieferten Fassungen des einleitenden Ostinato-Teils (Themenbeginn nach C1 mit den Terz G-B, nach den übrigen Quellen mit der Tonwiederholung G-G) hat Hedar sich für die Lunder Lesart entshieden; Beckmann ist ihm gefolgt. Hedar begründet seine Entsheidung mit der angeblich "grosseren Fülle des Ausdrucks und der Spannweite" dieser Version: auch ergebe sich das erste Fugenthema natürliche aus der Lunder Ostinato-Fassung. Beide Argumente sind anzufechten: Die Tonrepetition ist uasdruckskräftiger als die kleine Terz, deren Intervallcharakteristik (nach Werckmeister, Mattheson und Kirnberger: traurig, wehmütig) schlecht zu dem aufrüttelnden Anfang passt.

 

Now I'm afraid I have no German, but, sticking the babelfish in my ear, this appears to transliterate into something like this (and if you can improve it please do - don't spare my blushes):

 

Main source: C1 [Lund University Library, Wenster Collection] (dated 5 April/15 May 1714)

Additional sources: D1-2 [D1: Berlin State Library, Prussian Culture Estate, Music Department, Mus. MS. 2681; D2 is a copy of D1]. E1-5 [E1: Brussels Library of the Royal Music Conservatory U 26659; E2-5 contain the same pieces in the same order as E1. E2-4 are copies from E1, E5 from E3.]

 

For bars 1-20 E1 is considered the main source; for the variant of the opening in C1, refer to the appendix: Of the two received versions of the introductory ostinato section (the theme of which begins in C1 with the third G-B, but in the remaining sources with the unison repetition of G-G), Hedar opted for the Lund reading; Beckmann followed it. Hedar justifies his decision with the allegedly “larger abundance of the expression and span” of this version: also the first fugue theme results naturally from the Lund Ostinato version. Both arguments are to be contested: The repetition of the unison is stronger in expression than the minor third, which interval (called by Werckmeister, Mattheson and Kirnberger sad, melancholy) accords poorly with the arousing beginning.

 

Albrecht goes on to point out the similarity between:

 

the Fugue theme: G D Eb C A D

the answer: G C Eb C A D

the ostinato: G G C D Eb C D

 

All of which suggests to me that Albrecht is over-egging the case and it's really nothing more than a matter of opinion. I might just revert to the G-Bb formula.

 

(This has kept me up two hours past my bedtime. Why do I do this sort of thing???)

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