- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in F major, Op. 1/1, BuxWV 252
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in G major, Op. 1/2, BuxWV 253
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in A minor, Op. 1/3, BuxWV 254
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in B flat major, Op. 1/4, BuxWV 255
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in C major, Op. 1/5, BuxWV 256
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord in D minor, Op. 1/6, BuxWV 257
- Sonata for 2 violins, viola da gamba & harpsichord, in E minor, Op. 1/7, BuxWV 258
The "Seven Sonatas, Op. 1," of Dietrich Buxtehude, published around 1694, date from the later years of the composer's career as organist at St. Mary's Church in Lübeck. Written for violin, viola da gamba, and keyboard continuo, they juggle not two but three different worlds: these sonatas, most of them in four multi-sectional movements, deftly join elements of the virtuoso violin tradition of the seventeenth century, the dense contrapuntal thinking of the school that culminated in J.S. Bach, and the new instrumental sonata and concerto structures emanating from Italy. The musical scenery changes quickly as these small sections of music go by; extreme chromatic experiments (the Largo opening of the last movement of the "Sonata No. 3") stand next to fugues, canons, and other manifestations of learned polyphonic art, and the relationship between the violin and viola da gamba changes constantly, with the gamba serving variously as accompanimental harmonic reinforcement, fugal voice, and contrasting element in a concerted texture. It's a mark of the skill of this underappreciated Danish-German master that he makes it all hang together. Those who have heard a few of Buxtehude's monumental yet highly expressive works for organ will enjoy finding a similarly unexpected mixture of qualities in these chamber pieces. Nearly unknown for quite some time, the "Seven Sonatas" have attracted a number of ensembles. This Naxos disc is a reissue of a 1994 performance by violinist John Holloway and gambist Jaap ter Linden, originally released on the Dacapo label. Naxos deserves kudos for bringing it back into a crowded seventeenth century marketplace. It has been claimed that these sonatas, in a variety of ways, require more elaborate, freer performances than violinist Holloway gives them here; some violinists apply more ornamentation to Buxtehude's written lines, and some add a second violinist on the melody part, setting off a soloist's efforts and playing up the concerto-like elements of the work. Sample other interpretations if you like (that led by Manfredo Krämer on Harmonia Mundi takes a completely different approach), but be aware that they may do violence to the delicate balance of learned and spontaneous elements heard in these works. Buxtehude was not Biber, who stands up to imaginative treatments, the more fantastic the better. He was, above all, Bach's chief predecessor, the composer whom Bach walked hundreds of miles to hear. Holloway gets that across. The liner notes for this disc are dry, old-school things that plow through the works in order, but they do help in identifying the various elements present in music, which is really rather difficult despite its modest dimensions.