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Saturday, June 19, 2004
  Chorale Prelude: Danket dem Herrn, BuxWV 181
Dieterich Buxtehude
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.

In Rashomon 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. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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