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Buxtehude

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Buxtehude ended his career as an organist in Lübeck in northern Germany. This picture is from there. Before Buxtehude was a good example of a Sound citizen, who worked on both sides of the Sound, in spite of war and trouble in the area.

Buxtehude – A Sound Citizen
It is difficult to say how the man in the street experienced Scania´s abrupt transition to Sweden at the peace treaties in 1658 and 1660. In paragraph 9 in the Roskilde peace treaty it was stated that all estates in Scania had the right to maintain their distinctive cultural characteristics and inherited rights, so nothing prevented them from living as they had done before. Furthermore it was difficult to say how much nationality meant for the individual. Sweden as well as Denmark was at this time complex – in reality multinational states, which to some extent demanded some loyalty from their citizens, but hardly a national disposition in the modern sense. That came with Romanticism’s worship of the nation and the people at the end of the 18th century.
The example of the composer Diderich Buxtehude may illuminate this connection. Posterity has not succeeded in establishing where he was born – in Holstein, Elsinore or Helsingborg – in any case he was born in an area, which belonged to the Danish state around 1637. His father, Johannes Buxtehude came from Oldesloe in Holstein – to where he probably had emigrated originally. In 1638 he became an organist at the Maria Church in Helsingborg. In the years 1638-41 the father worked in Helsingborg and here Diderich had some childhood years. In 1642 the father was the organist at the St. Olai Church in Elsinore, where he was active until around 1670. Diderich Buxtehude thus spent his childhood and youth in Helsingborg and Elsinore.

Music with Class
During the first half of the 17th century the musical scene at the Danish court and in the major churches was of a very high standard. (It is to be remembered that the court and the churches at that time were the most important customers, when it came to music and thus the music scene evolved around these institutions). Names like Heinrich Schütz and John Dowland are still remembered. Schütz was a church musician in Copenhagen and there he established the court orchestra. Dowland, a famous lutanist and composer, was a court musician. He lived in Elsinore. Johann Lorentz worked during the first half of the 17th century as a royal organ builder and he built or rebuilt all the important organs in the Sound region in a quite conservative renaissance style, a style, which then were represented by Schütz and Dowland. One of the most important remnants of Lorentz´s activity is in the organ facade in the Holy Trinity Church in Kristianstad.

New Organs
Diderich Buxtehude followed his father’s footsteps and became the organist in the Maria Church in Helsingborg. In 1660 he applied for and got the organist post in Elsinore´s Maria Church. Probably because this post was better paid and by taking it he came closer to the rest of his family. In the time up to 1668, where he went to Lübeck to apply for a post there, he lived in the same house as his mother and father. The house still stands.
Simultaneously the old Lorenz organs were modernized in a modern Baroque style, a style, which was represented musically by Diderich Buxtehude. The German organ builder did the modernization and he was the man behind the building and rebuilding of organs in Copenhagen, Elsinore, Halmstad, Helsingborg, Landskrona and Malmo.
Diderich Buxtehude experienced and participated in a very active renewal of the music scene through the new building, which was made. Two years after he had moved to Elsinore he came back to Helsingborg to supervise the rebuilding of the organ in the Maria Church. This indicates that the Swedish takeover in Scania in 1658 did not affect the music scene right away.
The Maria Church in Helsingborg
The Maria Church in Helsingborg
Saint Anne Street in Elsinore
Saint Anne Street in Elsinore
The Old Organ
The Old Organ
Buxtehude
Buxtehude
Choir Organ in the Mariakyrkan (Church of St, Mary)
Choir Organ in the Mariakyrkan (Church of St, Mary)

Connections over the Sound
In his time in Elsinore Buxtehude kept in close touch with Swedish as well as Danish officials. The only piece of music we know of that Buxtehude wrote in his time in Elsinore, is from 1665 and dedicated to Christoffer Schneider, a Swedish postmaster and later consul resident in Elsinore. From his time in Elsinore Buxtehude also was friendly with the Swedish court conductor and organist Gustav Büben. Perhaps it was on his request that Buxtehude composed the wedding cantata to the wedding between Carl XI Gustav and his Danish queen Hedvig Eleonora in 1680.
LargeAperte mihi portas iustitiae, Elsinore 1665. (Diderik Buxtehude)
LargeAria sopra le Nozze di Sua Maesta il Re de Svecia (1680). Diderik Buxtehude

In Lübeck
In 1668 Buxtehude moved to Lübeck, probably for career reasons, but also to get away from the meagre financial circumstances in the devastated Sound region. The three Maria Churches in Helsingborg, Elsinore and Lübeck are the main threads in his life. Even though he spent most of his active life in Lübeck and even though he achieved fame and honour there, he never forgot his roots by the Sound. That was why the periodical “Nova litteraria Maris Balthici” could claim in 1707: “He considered Denmark his native country” (Patriam agnoscit Daniam).
Diderich Buxtehude´s career as a composer and an organist culminated in Lübeck and great composers like Händel and Bach came and listened to his music. He was especially renowned for his “Lübecker Abendmusiken”, which were concerts in connection with the evensong before Christmas. He wrote new organ works for this every year.

©  Øresundstid 2009