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Buxtehude 2007: Celebrating 300 Years

Yeo Huan, Programme Director
15 December 2006

The year 2007 is a very special one for all who play or appreciate classical music, as it marks the 300th death anniversary of Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). Danish by birth, Buxtehude was a well-known composer from the North German School. He took on his first job as organist at his father’s former church, St. Mary’s Church in Helsingborg from 1657 to 1658, then left for a better paying position at St. Mary’s Church in Elsinore.

After Franz Tunder died in 1667, Buxtehude succeeded him as organist of St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck, North Germany. There, he married Tunder’s daughter and remained in his church appointment until his death.


Apart from his duties as organist, Buxtehude was also responsible for directing the Abendmusiken concert series at St. Mary’s church. These concerts were originally started by Tunder as organ recitals to entertain businessmen awaiting the opening of the Lübeck stock exchange at noon on Thursdays, and were known informally as “stock exchange” concerts.

Under the baton of Buxtehude, these concerts were shifted to five specific Sundays in the season of Advent. The Abendmusiken concerts featured vocal and instrumental solo and chamber works (in addition to Buxtehude’s solo organ recitals), and admission to them was free.

As a result, the Abendmusiken rapidly gained fame throughout the country and grew into a reputable cultural institution. It attracted prominent visitors from all over the country, including George Frederic Handel, and the twenty-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach, who both visited in 1705.

Bach’s long walk

The young Bach walked 250 miles from Thuringia to Lübeck, drawn by Buxtehude’s status as a virtuoso in the “art of the organ” and specifically his mastery of the freewheeling stylus phantasticus toccatas.

Bach was so awed by the splendid Abendmusik performances that his intended four-week sojourn in Lübeck was extended to four months. His visit would prove to be highly important for the subsequent development of the German musical style, as his later compositions were very much influenced by Buxtehude.

Remembering Buxtehude

Join us and share in the excitement, as we commemorate Buxtehude Year in 2007. This will be a year of music, education, and celebration as the Singapore AGO seeks to increase local musicians’ and music lovers’ awareness of Buxtehude, the North German School, and Buxtehude’s influences on later music.

The array of programmes in the line-up include the continuing concert series [email protected] at the Victoria Concert Hall and Pipe Works at the Orchard Road Presbyterian Church. Educational workshops and masterclasses will also be conducted by visiting artistes.

In addition, the Chapter presents for the first time the Abendmusiken, a concert series held in tribute to the great Buxtehude tradition. These concerts will be held at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, the Danish Seamen’s Mission and the Norwegian Seamen’s Mission, and will feature vocal, instrumental and organ works by Buxtehude and other early Baroque composers.

The eminent Danish organist Flemming Dreisig has been invited to grace the opening of the [email protected] concert series, and more importantly, to kick-start the Buxtehude Year celebrations with a recital dedicated almost entirely to Buxtehude’s organ works.

The first Abendmusik concert also deserves much anticipation: the Chapter collaborates with the Amadeus Choral Society to present Buxtehude’s famous seven-part passion meditation Membra Jesu Nostri (“The Limbs of our Lord Jesus”). This work will be performed in its entirety for the first time in Singapore.

It consists of seven concerto-aria cantatas, focused on seven different parts of Christ’s body as He suffered on the cross: feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face. Buxtehude matches the intense quality of a form of religious devotion to music of a delicate, detached and sorrowful calm in this beautiful cycle of cantatas.

At a quick glance, here are some dates worth noting:

  • [email protected]
    13 Feb 07, Tuesday: Flemming Dreisig (Denmark)
    5 Jun 07, Tuesday: Faythe Freese (USA)
  • Pipe Works
    11 Oct 07, Thursday: Pavel Kohout (Czech Republic)
    1 Nov 07, Thursday: Jerome Faucheur (France)
  • Abendmusiken
    2 Mar 07, Friday: Featuring Amadeus Choral Society, Membra Jesu Nostri
    29 Sep 07, Saturday: Cultural evening at Danish Seamen’s Mission

See you in Buxtehude Year!