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Buxtehude Te Deum and Other Works, John Walthausen, organ

Thursday, February 7, 2018, 8PM (Pre-concert talk at 7:15PM)

Christ Church Cathedral

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John Walthausen, organ

With Victoria Children’s Choir and 

Men of St. Christopher Singers


"After a thrilling first visit to Victoria in 2017, I am so pleased to be returning for this anniversary edition of the Pacific Baroque Festival. In honour of this special occasion, I will play a program built around Buxtehude's grandest work for organ, his festive Te Deum. This work of thanks and celebration is heard all too rarely, and I am particularly excited to present it in Victoria's breathtaking Christ Church Cathedral in collaboration with a plainchant vocal ensemble.

The theme of my program is taken from the French polymath Marin Mersenne's 1636 compendium on music Harmonie Universelle. 'Universal Harmony' - this expression inspires me in more ways than one! My program will bring together music from across the European continent, celebrating the always surprising diversity of the baroque. May this music, rich in craft and rhetoric, be a worthy echo of the harmony of the spheres"

- John Walthausen

$25 adult, $20 seniors and students

That a memorable event was under way was apparent immediately...


— The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Ohio



Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Toccata in F Major, BuxWV156

Jean Henri d’Anglebert (1629-1691)

Pièces d’orgue

1. Fugue Grave

2. Fugue sur lemême sujet

Antoni van Noordt (1691-1675)

Psaume 24 “La Terre au Seigneur Appartient”

Johann Adam Reincken (1643-1722)

An Wasserflüssen Babylon

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564

Benoît Mernier (1964 - )

Invention No. 1

J.S. Bach
Duetto, BWV802

Dieterich Buxtehude

Te Deum Laudamus BuxWV 218
* Performed with Victoria Children’s Choir & Men of St. Christopher Singers



Je me suis souvent estonné de ce que la musique est demeurée si imparfatie jusqu’à présent veu que Pythagore, Platon, & tous les anciens l’ont exigée si nécessaire, qu’ils ont creu qu’on ne pouvoit estre vertueux sans la pratiquer

-Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle (1636)



I have often found myself surprised that music has been so imperfect up to the present day, even though Pythagoras, Plato, and all of the ancients judged it necessary, that one could not be virtuous without practicing it.

-Marin Mersenne, Harmonie Universelle (1636)



All across Europe, the 17th century was a time of musical revelation and unprecedented cosmopolitanism. At the same time that national styles were coming into focus across Europe, printing technology was spreading music and musical knowledge across borders. Instrumental music, which had taken a back seat to sung music in generations prior, was a subject of new fascination. The ancient interpretation of music as a reflection of divine proportion still held sway, but it was now challenged by a more modern demand for music to convey and resemble human emotion: the irrational, the capricious, the unspeakable.


Buxtehude’s Toccata in F is a great reflection of this tension. Virtuoso flourishes throughout speak to the passions: comic, tragic, and melancholic. Moments of counterpoint interspersed display both rational compositional prowess and a knack for the conversational. The young Bach famously trekked 200 miles to meet Buxtehude, probably not just to hear and play for him, but to work for him playing in his ensemble, absorbing Buxtehude’s charisma and experiencing his music first hand. It is clear how the deeply humanist qualities of his work must have impressed the budding composer.


Jean-Henri d’Anglebert was of the most famous harpsichordists of his generation. His Pièces de Clavessin were printed lavishly and celebrated across Europe. J.S. Bach was so impressed by his table of ornaments that he copied it for himself and used it as a model in his own music. These two fugues for organ are from an unpublished manuscript and are notable for their copious ornamentation, which gives each contrapuntal line notable independence and a lively, almost speech-like quality.


While the dramatic and passionate music of the 17th century was a natural fit for Catholic and Lutheran liturgies, the place of concerted vocal and instrument music was far from assured in Calvinist countries. Organ music was forbidden during Calvinist services in Amsterdam, but Dutch organists like Antoni van Noordt were known to skirt regulations by playing concerts outside of liturgy. La Terre au Seigneur appartient takes as its theme from Psalm 24 in the Genevan Psalter: “The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein,” itself a vision of divine harmony.


In 2005, musicologists identified a copy of Johann-Adam Reincken’s magnum opus An Wasserflüssen Babylon copied out by hand by a 15 year old Bach. Clearly this work loomed large in Bach’s development, for he improvised on the same tune when he finally encountered a 97 year-old Reincken at the Katharinenkirche in Hamburg in 1720.


While Bach’s relationship with this work is impossible for us to fully fathom, readily apparent is the incredible grandeur of Reincken’s masterpiece. The hymn “An Wasserflüssen Babylon” paraphrases Psalm 137, “By the waters of Babylon.” Here, Reincken weaves the choral melody into a monument that evokes all the sorrow, grief and rage of the original text, while also showing off some of the most intricate keyboard writing of his time.


After some less familiar music, J.S. Bach’s Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue needs no introduction. Likely composed while Bach was organist to the Duke of Weimar, it is an incredible synthesis and “one upping” of several different styles that Bach would have encountered in his travels and at the italophile Weimar court. The pedal solo at the beginning recalls the sorts of pedal solos found in music of Buxtehude, but Bach takes this conceit to an extreme. The adagio seems inspired by the languorous solo writing of the the Italian concertos beloved in Weimar, but is characterized by richer harmony than in anything of Vivaldi. The fugue is pure fun!


Benoît Mernier, is one of the leading composers of Belgian contemporary music and one of the most celebrated composers for organ today. This short invention, written to be played on a baroque style organ much like the ones Bach knew, pays tribute to the music of Bach with its startling economy of means. From a tiny melodic cell, Mernier weaves a rich tapestry of incredible rhythmic vitality, and with few notes he builds the illusion of the most complex polyphony.


This Duetto in e minor is a short two-part invention from Bach’s Clavierubung III, his late masterpiece of church music for the organ. Unlike most of the other works in this collection, Bach’s four duetti do not have an apparent liturgical function and could be played just as happily at home on a harpsichord or clavichord as on the organ. The character of this piece is defined by its executio, Bach’s unpredictable and personal working out of a somewhat unruly theme.


Though we know relatively little about the circumstances around the composition of Buxtehude’s Te Deum, it seems appropriate that Buxtehude’s most impressive work for keyboard should be based on this Gregorian song of praise. Most likely, this work was written for a special civic occasion like the New Year or for one of the city’s public celebrations of victory against the Turks. In this work,


Buxtehude weaves together every possible compositional technique into a vast tapestry worthy of the original Te Deum text, which itself is almost a verbal catalogue of reasons to give thanks. I feel very lucky today to collaborate with the Victoria Children’s Choir in presenting this work much as it may have first been presented in Lübeck. In presenting the Te Deum with a large organ and two alternating plainchant choirs, we will be covering the whole Cathedral with sound. What better way to celebrate and give thanks on Pacific Baroque Festival’s anniversary!


Single Tickets and Festival Pass for the Pacific Baroque Festival can be purchased:


Online here (purchase now)

By calling the Victoria Conservatory of Music Box Office (purchase now):​ 250.386.5311

In person (tickets available from September 1):

  • At the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Alix Goolden Performance Hall Box Office (900 Johnson Street, Victoria BC (box office charges apply)

  • Or at the Cathedral Office (930 Burdett Avenue)

  • And at the following outlets:

    • Ivy’s Bookshop at: 2188 Oak Bay Ave

    • Long & McQuade at: 756 Hillside Ave

    • Tanner’s Books at: 2436 Beacon ave, Sidney

    • Munro’s Books at: 1108 Government St.


Parking Information

The Cathedral is located on Quadra Street at Rockland Avenue. 

Street parking is available on Quadra Street, Burdett Avenue, and Rockland Avenue, as well as at the south entrance to the Cathedral off Burdett.





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