Friday, March 14, 2014

Dieterich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri, Performed by La Venexiana, Directed by Claudio Cavina

Dieterich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri, "the first Lutheran oratorio," which "is divided into seven parts, each addressed to a different part of Christ's crucified body: feet, knees, hands, side, chest, heart, and head," will be performed by the local Pegasus Early Music ensemble this Sunday at 4:00 PM Downtown United Presbyterian Church. The Rochester City Newspaper blurb:
    Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707) may not be a household name, but he was a decisive influence on a composer who certainly is: J.S. Bach, who according to legend once walked 250 miles to hear Buxtehude play the organ. Buxtehude's music is not performed as frequently as Bach's, but when it came to writing religious music combining Italianate vocal lyricism with contrapuntal instrumental writing, he got there first. This Sunday afternoon, Pegasus Early Music marshals some outstanding singers and string players, along with organist Michael Beattie and lutenist Deborah Fox, for a rare complete performance of Buxtehude's choral work "Membra Jesu Nostri." The words are Lenten meditations on parts of the crucified body of Jesus, from His feet to His face; the music is intricate, intimate, and moving.
I first heard the name Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707), and that of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1524-1594) for that matter, in a most unlikely source: John Steinbeck's non-fiction classic, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, in which bohemian marine biologist Ed Ricketts, the model for the character "Doc" in Cannery Row, cites both composers, along with Johann Sebastian Bach, as exemplars of his philosophy of "Breaking Through."

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