About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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“The following few hints on the selection of voices may be useful: (1) Reject all boys who speak roughly, or sing coarsely; (2) Choose bright, intelligent-looking boys, provided they have a good ear; they will much more readily respond to the choirmaster’s efforts than boys who possess a voice and nothing more; therefore, (3) Reject dull, sulky, or scatter-brained boys, since it is hard to say which of the three has the most demoralizing effect on his more willing companions.”
— Sir Richard Runciman Terry (1912)

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“O Sacred Head Surrounded” | Buxtehude
published 3 April 2015 by Richard J. Clark

IETERICH BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) was a direct influence on Johann Sebastian Bach—and for good reason. His development of themes and compositional symmetry were highly lauded by Bach himself. This choral prelude—a favorite of Marie-Claire Alain—is based on the famous melody by Hans Leo Hassler (1564–1612), which we now recognize as “O Sacred Head Surrounded.” Hassler’s tune has accompanied a few different texts, including the religious text with the title “Herzlich tut mich verlangen” written by Christoph Knoll (1563–1621). Buxtehude’s title here, “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” (“Ah Lord, poor sinner that I am”) is from a text which pleads to God for forgiveness and mercy.

As the spirit moves, Buxtehude’s treatment became rather unintentionally one of the greatest meditations on “O Sacred Head Surrounded.” Timeless and simple, exquisite ornamentations reveal tortured, yet divine suffering. Typical of Buxtehude, the theme seamlessly weaves through the various voices, often unnoticed, and in service to the divine.

This was recorded on the 1999 Smith & Gilbert Organ at St. Cecilia Church, Boston.

      * *  Mp3 Download • Dieterich Buxtehude, “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” | BuxWV 178