The Chorale Fantasia on the Te Deum, BuxWV218, a plainsong-based work, is among Buxtehude’s longest and grandest works for organ. The first of its five sections is a short praeludium. The second begins with the melody’s opening phrase in long notes, each six-note group corresponding with the six syllables of ‘Te Deum laudamus’, and it continues with four-voice writing based on the notes that are sung to ‘te Dominum confitemur’. The long third section (‘Pleni sunt caeli et terra’) makes use of two manuals, much of it consisting of sprightly passagework directed to be played on the Rückpositiv and accompanied on the ‘O[rgel]’ or main division; and Buxtehude engineers ‘echo’ effects by the alternation of manuals. The fourth section, a trio, gives the pedals the notes associated with the section of text beginning ‘Te Martyrum’, and the fifth and final section begins with a fugal passage based on the notes that are sung to the words ‘Tu devicto mortis aculeo’. It continues with a further fugal passage, based on the last line of the melody: this is a kind of quadruple fugue, for each statement of the plainsong-based subject is accompanied by three counter-subjects. The fiery coda affirms the work’s Phrygian modality.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2010