Praeludium in E Major, BuxWV 141
Dieterich Buxtehude (ca. 1637-1707)
Norton Recorded Anthology or Western Music, CD 5 tracks 12-16
I have the Russians to thank for my appreciation of solo organ music. Not that I ever disliked the sound. It was the presentation, I think, that made it difficult for me. For a young listener, the appeal of a man sitting with his back to you in the front of a church absorbed in a strange language was limited. However, after seeing Tarkovsky's Solaris
from 1972, this sound acquired meaning. I grew to understand this music as a cathartic exercise of the endless yearning in humanity to understand and join infinity. And once I got past that, I could listen to Messiaen.
Regarding our Danish virtuoso, in spite of Buxtehude's effort to notate each pitch and rhythm of this romp in E Major, the score does a poor job of looking like it sounds. Perhaps understanding that no two organs will sound the same anyway, Buxtehude has given no instructions on the setting or changing of stops. And though his notation of rhythm is not ambiguous, the clarity of this piece depends on the performer's loose interpretation of that notation. Because of these freedoms the performer is required to understand the piece as if he or she were the composer. Which gives the performance that fresh, improvised sound.
What I like about this piece is the meter change near the end (track 15). Signaling the approaching coda, Dieterich gives his feet a rest, starts a fugal section in the tenor voice, and gives us that triplet lilt once thought to be the only proper way to divide a beat.