The series of the seven cantatas "Membra Jesu nostri" by the German-Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude was written in 1680 and is considered the first Lutheran oratory. Buxtehude himself was primarily an organist in Sweden in the city of Helsingborg and in Denmark in Helsingør, and finally settled in Hanza Lubeca. Above all, his work exerted a great influence on the North German school of organ – in order to listen to Buxtehude, both Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Haendel came to Lubeka. And yet, along with the numerous organ pieces in Buxtehude's output, there were 114 sacral vocal compositions, including eight wedding cantatas.
The passionate work whose full title is "Membra Jesu nostri patientis sanctissima" (Sacred body of our suffering Jesus), proclaims the seven wounds of Christ on the cross – each of the successive cantatas refers to a different part of the body: the feet, knees, hands, side, chest, heart, face. In the textual layer, the composition was based on the medieval hymn "Salve mundi salutare", whose authorship is traditionally attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, although currently the authorship is given to another medieval poet, Arnulf of Leuven. The text of the hymn is complemented by fragments of the biblical "Song of Songs", whose overtone of love may be surprising in comparison with the image of Christ suffering on the cross. The combination of these texts, however, has a profoundly symbolic meaning (the "Song ..." itself symbolizes the love of Christ for the Church). The part "Ad latus" (To the Sides) begins with the following words from "Song of Songs":
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
My dove in the clefts of the rock,
In the hiding places of the mountainside..
This text can be read as a reference to the birth of Eve from the side, the rib of Adam, and in some way the creation of the Church through Christ.
In the musical layer, all the cantatas were built in a similar way – they begin with an instrumental introduction (Sonata), followed by a vocal-instrumental concerto usually in a five-voice cast (SSATB), followed by three solo arias, and completed with a return to concerto. The voices are accompanied by two violins with basso continuo – the exception is in the "Ad cor", in which a band of five viola da gamba appear.
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Buxtehude | Membra Jesu Nostri
Chamber hallFilharmonia im. Mieczysława Karłowicza w Szczecinie
ul. Małopolska 48