Work of little known composer comes alive for Peabody audience


February 04, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

In 1705, a 20-year-old organist from Arnstadt, Germany, set out by foot on a 560-mile journey to Luebeck and back to hear a man nearly 50 years his senior play the organ.

To the young Johann Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude was clearly a great man. But to too many current listeners, the Danish composer is just a name, important enough in his own time, and to the development of J. S. Bach, to earn a 12-page entry in "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians."

That he was also an astoundingly great composer was made vivid Saturday night in Friedberg Hall of the Peabody Conservatory.

The program consisted mostly of trio sonatas by Buxtehude and it was performed by violinist Jaap Schroder, viola da gambist Kenneth Slowik and harpsichordist James Weaver. These three musicians -- all ofwhom are giant figures in the authentic-performance movement and artists-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution -- were inaugurating the "Smithsonian at Peabody Series."

It was a concert that deserved a larger audience than the 50-odd people who attended.

In four trio sonatas, all of them written in 1696, one heard the qualities that must have ignited the imagination of the young Bach: an impassioned individuality that expressed itself in harmonic adventurousness and fantastically shaped melodies. The three musicians played this music with an appropriate lightness of touch and color as well as a sense of passion and drama. Other works on the program included a partita for solo violin by Johann Paul von Westhoff and a trio sonata by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach.

Future "Smithsonian at Peabody" concerts will take place March 6 and May 13.

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