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Thus, these contrapuntal techniques also belong to the theory and practice of musical rhetoric in general and Figurenlehre in particular.

Werckmeister’s ingenious yet simple teachings on fugue, canon and invertible counterpoint merit special mention in their own right, but they also shed light on the improvisational techniques of his contemporaries, most notably Dieterich Buxtehude, organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck.

In many of his works in improvisatory genres, including his praeambula and chorale-based compositions, Buxtehude employs the very techniques described by his friend Werckmeister.

At issue is not any question of influence: notwithstanding Werckmeister’s avowals of originality, it seems more likely it was he, an innovative theorist but mediocre composer, who learned from the Lübeck master than vice versa.

Indeed, by the time Werckmeister published Harmonologia musica in 1702, the sexagenarian Buxtehude had already composed most of his organ works.

Rather, the striking parallels between Werckmeister’s teachings and Buxtehude’s music merit attention because they constitute mutually supporting evidence about contrapuntal improvisation in the Baroque era.1.3 If to Baroque minds invertible counterpoint and canon exemplified some of the most arcane expressions of musical science, then for composers of fugue these procedures also provided indispensable tools.

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