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Buxtehude and the Suitors

As was a custom in his day, Dieterich Buxtehude's job came with benefits. No, not with medical and dental plans but with a wife. As part of the deal to take on his new job, Buxtehude married the daughter of Franz Tunder, his predecessor. When it came time to retire, he not only looked for a worthy successor but someone to take the complete package.

In August of 1703, Johann Mathesson came from Hamburg to interview. He was ideal to say the least and wanted the job until he got a look at Buxtehude's daughter Anna Margreta. Unfortunately, he lost interest because she turned out to be too old. Ten years his senior, in fact-apparently thirty was over the hill.

Mattheson was not alone on the audition trip he took to Lübeck. A colleague of his from the Hamburg opera came along in the carriage. His friend, a then little-known George Frideric Handel, may have also had his sights set on the organ position. Yet, his reaction was the same as Mattheson's-no thanks. They both gave poor Anna Margreta little chance because they were back on the carriage the next day.

Among the many men who came knocking on the aging composer's door was Johann Sebastian Bach. Scholars tell us that he was there for lessons but he may have also been looking for a job. He stayed spent about three months learning and absorbing many things from Buxtehude. Bach's own post at Arnstadt was quite provincial and his long stay may have been as a result of a reluctance to return. Nevertheless, he did not succeed Buxtehude.

Buxtehude did eventually get his successor, but the aging organist passed away before he saw his daughter's wedding. In the months following his death, the candidate was both officially installed as organist and married. Who is the lucky guy you might ask? Johann Christian Schieferdecker, a little-known composer who was an accompanist and composer at the Hamburg opera. He was probably a colleague of both Handel and Mattheson's. Schieferdecker was also Buxtehude's assistant shortly before he died.

In the end, Buxtehude succeeded in finding an son-in-law and replacement for his own job.

Our new release this week features the ensemble Gothic Voices. The music of Machaut is performed alongside that of his immediate successor, Solage.

The music heard on this episode was performed by Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, The Parley of Instruments, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Bach Collegium Japan, and the Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin.

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