When I practise one of the familiar compositions on the reportoire, I like to make my own score from the manuscript source or from an old edition of the work. Last week I practised Buxtehude’s Ciacona in e minor and created a score from the only manuscript source that is known, Becker III.8.4, owned by the Sächsische Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek. Having done that, I might as well publish it, even though it is hardly a “lesser known work”.
A Ciacona (or Ciaconne) is a musical form where a short bass line is repeated throughout the piece and offers the opportunity for variation, decoration, figuration and melodic invention, both in the other voices as in the bass-line itself. The Ciaconna is very similar to the Passacaglia which is also a set of variations on a short bass melody. It is actually very difficult to define the difference between the two forms. A difference could be that in a Ciacona the bass melody stays in the bass voice, whereas in a Passacaglia, the variations include the melody being played in the other voices as well.
I don’t know whether this is true for all Ciaconas and Passacaglias in existence. It is (mostly) true however for the Ciacona’s I am familiar with.
This beautiful Ciacona is no exceptiom. The melody, or harmonic outline, and the variations thereof are restricted to the lowest sounding voice. It sounds 31 times in vrious variations.
The recording was done with the Hauptwerk software and the sampleset, made by Sonus Paradisi, of the Schittger organ in the St. Martini-kerk, Groningen (http://www.sonusparadisi.cz/en/organs/netherlands/groningen-st-martini.html).