The North-German chorale-fantasia:  oratorio or showpiece?

by Sietze de Vries | Het ORGEL | Year 118 | (2022) | Issue 3

Buxtehudes 'Nun freut euch' in het afschrift van J.S. Bach

This article treats the origins and characteristics of the North-German chorale-fantasia.   What was the purpose of these intriguing compositions? Although the chorale-fantasias are all different, the similarities are too striking to be ignored.   There were apparently a couple of ‘rules’ which a chorale-fantasia had to follow.   For example, they all treat every single line of the chorale tune extensively.

Striking is the wide range of the solo voice, from bass to treble, while the accompanying voices use (pre)imitations and motives of the corresponding melody line.  The cantus firmus is also sometimes temporarily moved to an accompanimental voice, while the solo voice has motivically derived elements.

The author considers the close relationship between the chorale-fantasia  and the North-German organ.   He also answers the question of whether there is a relationship between the chorale-fantasia and its chorale text, or whether the chorale melody was nothing more than a tool with which the listeners could follow a complex composition like the chorale-fantasia.