Buxtehude Membra Jesu Nostri Review

Released 2006.  

BBC Review

Buxtehude's set of seven short cantatas for Holy Week.

Andrew McGregor 2006

It's a strange concept: a set of seven short cantatas for Holy Week, setting a medieval hymn cycle in which the writer gazes adoringly at the body of the crucified Christ, penning mystical contemplations of different parts of his body, working up from the feet in the first cantata, via the knees, hands, side, breast and heart to the face.

Buxtehude's music has a gentle, austere beauty to it...and performers can take the objective or subjective route at any point. With the Netherlands Bach Society it's most definitely the latter...and park any thoughts you might have that this is a big chorus. Here the NBS consists of five fine singers (Anne Grimm, Johanette Zomer, Peter de Groot, Andrew Tortise and Bas Ramselaar) and eleven instrumentalists conducted by Jos van Veldhoven, who encourages them to explore every last nuance of the text. They dally deliciously on any expressive dissonances and suspensions, while the players add warmth and colour with intelligent use of vibrato and ornamentation, becoming more overtly dramatic at the start of the third cantata, where their percussive introduction reminds you forcibly of the nails hammered into Christ's hands.

The recording is everything you could wish for, as radiant and illuminating as the performances, and if you haven't already succumbed to Buxtehude's genius (as Bach did), then why not start here? A profoundly moving experience.

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