The Czech composer Petr Eben was born in 1929 and died in 2007. His Hommage à Buxtehude
, subtitled Toccatenfuge
, was commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of Schleswig-Holstein, who clearly plumped for Oldesloe as the place of Buxtehude’s birth and regarded ‘circa 1637’ as justifying 350th anniversary celebrations in 1987, to which year the work belongs. The score has a preface comprising quotations from the first bar of BuxWV137 and the first fugue-subject of BuxWV148. The first section, Con enfasi, ma più Allegro che Buxtehude
, is based on the first bar of the C major work and constitutes a brilliant, improvisatory introduction. The second, Ben ritmico
, dwells on the repeated-note fugue-subject of the G minor work, making occasional references to the C major pedal solo. The third, Scherzando
, also based on the G minor fugue-subject, is fugal in character. The last movement, Tempo I
, is a stunning toccata based on the rhythm of Buxtehude’s pedal solo, the outline of the G minor fugue-subject contributing increasingly powerful commentaries from the pedals. Buxtehude’s musical vocabulary was such that he would almost certainly have been bewildered by Eben’s work, fine though it is; but he could hardly fail to be moved by the highly inventive use it makes of his material, or fail to see in the work as a whole something of his own apparent joie de vivre.
from notes by Relf Clark © 2008