Chorale Prelude: Danket dem Herrn
, BuxWV 181
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 tracks 17-19
I have never found brevity to be a fault. When a piece of music does not take much of the listener's time, it can afford to be strange and, whatever happens, gains significance by isolation. The listener has the opportunity to internalize the music sooner and more deeply when they do not have to sift through developmental material. Taking this Chorale Prelude out of its prelude context, it has the glistening beauty to be found centuries later in an Austrian composer almost credited for inventing brevity.
style, Buxtehude thanks the lord three times. Each time his cantus firmus divides the narration into three sections, the first and last section with approximately seven bars. Emphasizing the symbolism in the number three, there are never more than three voices present. Creating an interesting depth of field, Dieterich distinguishes the cantus firmus voice by requiring it to move slower than the other two.
What I like about this prelude is the music in between the first and third sections of each variation. As we move into the territory without cantus firmus, we hear fragments of that tune as details of counterpoint. In this context, because of brevity, the architecture of the piece and even something like the leap of a fourth gain a sense of the profound that is lost in more ambitious projects.