Heinrich Schuetz - O bone Jesu, fili Mariae (SWV 471)
Dietrich Buxtehude - Membra Jesu Nostri (BuxWV 75)
The Monteverdi Choir
The English Baroque Soloists Fretwork
========= from the cover ==========
Buxtehude composed Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima (Most Holy Members [of the Body] of our Suffering Jesus) as a cycle of seven cantatas, each addressed to a different part of the body of the crucified Jesus: feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face. The cantatas are variously scored for two sopranos, alto, tenor, bass and strings. Buxtehude drew the theme and the bulk of the text for this work from a medieval poem, "Salve mundi salutare", originally written by Arnulf of Louvain (d. 1250). In an expanded form, falsely attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), this poem enjoyed wide circulation during the 17th century among Catholics and Protestants alike, both in the original Latin and in German translations and paraphrases. An edition under the title D[omini] Bernhardi Oratio rhythmica, published in Hamburg in 1633, probably served as the source for Buxtehude's text. Paul Gerhardt's familiar hymn "O sacred Head now wounded" (1656) represents a paraphrase of the seventh part of the poem. Buxtehude's autograph manuscript of Membra Jesu (see illustration) is dated 1680.
Buxtehude cast each of the seven cantatas of his Membra Jesu cycle in the form of the concerto-aria cantata. As cultivated by Buxtehude and his contemporaries, this genre usually consists of an opening sacred concerto on a biblical text followed by an aria set to a strophic poetic text. The poetry of the aria, usually of recent origin, often comments upon the biblical text and personalizes it for the individual believer. As the composite text juxtaposes prose and poetry, communal faith and individual belief, the composer generally heightens this contrast by saving his fullest scoring for the concerto and lightening his musical forces for the aria. The strophic form and metrical regularity of the poetry are likewise often reflected by use of strophic or strophic-variation form and regularity of musical phrase structure in the aria, which then contrasts with the normally through-composed form and irregular phrases of the concerto.
These same textual and musical contrasts are evident in Buxtehude's Membra Jesu cantatas, but here the functions of the biblical and poetic texts are partially reversed: rather than commenting upon the biblical verse, the poetry provides the primary focus and unifying factor of the cycle, and it is the biblical verse that introduces and comments upon the poem. The compiler of the text - very likely Buxtehude himself - first selected three strophes for the aria of each cantata from the ten or fourteen strophes of each part of "Salve mimdi salutare" and then found biblical verses to complement the aria texts. Most of the biblical verses mention the part of the body to which the corresponding aria is addressed, but without reference to the Passion story, the underlying theme of the poem. Only one of the concerto texts is taken from the New Testament (Cantata V); the one that appears to refer to the crucifixion, "What are these wounds in thine hands?" (Cantata III), is drawn from the prophecy of Zechariah. In the fifth cantata, "Upon the breast", the biblical verse alludes to the body part without stating it, referring to the milk that a newborn baby receives from its mother's breast; Buxtehude's setting, however, omits the word "milk". The two parts of Cantata IV, "Upon the side", are thematically but not verbally related: as a dove finds refuge in the cleft of a rock, so the dying soul enters the open side of Jesus. In all seven cantatas, each of the three strophes of the aria is scored differently, but almost always with lesser forces than those of the concerto that introduced it. The separate strophes are nonetheless highly unified by form. Where first and second soprano each sings a strophe within the same aria, as in Cantatas I, III, IV and VI, Buxtehude gave them identical music. Otherwise, he generally used strophic-variation form, in which the bass remains constant while the melody changes in response to differing text and vocal range. This pattern is broken only when the instruments join the voice in concertato style in the arias of Cantatas VI and VII.
Although the poetry of the arias is highly emotional, it is in the concertos that Buxtehude's most affective music is found, particularly those of Cantatas III and VI. The trenchant dissonances on the word "wounds" in Cantata III evoke sweet pain in the listener, and the concerto "Vulnerasti cor meum" of Cantata VI, with its persistent descending minor sixth, provides the emotional climax of the entire cycle. Buxtehude singled out this one cantata with different instrumental scoring: five viols in place of the usual two violins and violone. And this concerto text, "Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse", from the Song of Solomon, complements most effectively the erotic mysticism of the poetry. This is also the only concerto that Buxtehude rewrote for its return after the aria, adding the viols, partly in tremolo style. Buxtehude's words on the title-page of his manuscript, "sung with the most humble devotion of the whole heart", further emphasize the importance of the "Heart" cantata to the entire cycle.
The Membra Jesu cantatas contain a considerable amount of purely instrumental music, consisting of an opening sonata for each cantata and ritornelli to articulate the strophes of the arias. Here again, the "Heart" cantanta distinguishes itself as exceptional, with the longest and only multipartite sonata of the group. Several of these sonatas, including that of Ad cor, are linked thematically with the concertos that follow; this is a feature rarely found in Buxtehude's other cantatas.
The opening concerto of a concerto-aria cantata typically returns after the aria, providing a full-voiced framing for the more intimate aria. This occurs in all but the last of the Membra Jesu cantatas; there, instead, the final strophe of the aria is set in full-voiced concertato style, followed by a similar "Amen" section. This treatment is mirrored in the first cantata, in which the repetition of the opening concerto, which ends on a half cadence, is followed by a new setting of the first strophe of the aria, this time for the entire ensemble. The overall framing provided by these two aria verses, the presence of the "Amen" section at the end, and the layout of Buxtehude's autograph manuscript all suggest that he intended the seven cantatas to be performed together as a cycle. Buxtehude dedicated Membra Jesu to "a foremost man, Gustaf Duben, most noble and honored friend, Director of Music to His Most Serene Majesty, the King of Sweden"; the friendship of the two men is in fact documented by this dedication. Duben (1629-1690) collected, copied and performed Buxtehude's vocal music and instrumental chamber music at the Swedish royal court in Stockholm, and it is to him and his sons that we owe the preservation of most of Buxtehude's music in these genres. The performing parts that Duben copied from Buxtehude's tablature of Membra Jesu indicate, however, that Duben did not perform these cantatas together as a cycle. They appear in different formats and on different papers, presumably copied at various times. Cantata VI, "Ad Cor", is designated for the Passion, but Cantata I is labeled "for Easter or any time".
The words of the sacred concerto O bone Jesu, fdi Mariae, by Heinrich Schutz bear a striking resemblance to those of Buxtehude's Membra Jesu cantatas. Here, too, Schutz juxtaposed selected stanzas of a poem ascribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux - "Jesu dulcis memoria" - with prose passages, in this case drawn from Latin devotional literature rather than the Bible. And Schutz's musical setting likewise emphasizes this textual contrast by having the prose passages in recitative style and the first three poetic stanzas set strophically, in regular phrases that underline the metrical and rhyme scheme of the poem. But in keeping with the practice of an earlier generation, Schutz's contrasting textual and musical passages form the sections of a single sacred concerto rather than the separate movements of a cantata. The three strophic sections, set homophoni-cally for the entire ensemble of six voices and instruments, act as a refrain to the solo recitative sections preceding them. At the point where the prose text moves from the first person singular to the first person plural, however (at "adjuva ergo nos"), this distinction disappears, and both prose and poetry are sung by all the voices in concertato style to close the work.
O bone Jesu, like Membra Jesu, is preserved in the Duben collection; the set of manuscript parts was copied in Stockholm by an assistant of Duben's, probably around 1666. Although Schutz may have composed this work late in his career, the generational difference between the two composers is clearly evident, not just in their choices of musical form but even more in their handling of tonal materials. While Schutz's concerto still sounds distinctly modal, Buxtehude's. cantatas have entered the realm of major-minor toriality. The two composers are thoroughly united, however, in their common attraction to the fervent devotional language of medieval mysticism, which remained a strong current in German Lutheranism of the 17th century.
-Kerala J. Snyder