Buxtehude- Chaconne in C minor- Buxwv 159

Buxtehude- Chaconne in C minor- Buxwv 159


Although the land ownership has changed hands between countries, Dieterich Buxtehude lived and composed mainly in what is now Germany, and was a great influence for J.S. Bach’s organ music.  He wrote extensively, spanning many genres, which include: organ preludes, prelude and toccatas, fugues, chaconnes, etc.

Buxtehude took great care in his compositions and in the following paragraphs, I will show how much math could go into one of his works.


His Chaconne in C Minor fits directly into the mid-baroque period.  Its ground bass with highly active and imitative parts for each hand are characteristic of the chaconne, which is comparable to the passacaglia.  In researching this piece, I found an article that shed light on a highly mathematical side of his composition. 

This chaconne has 154 measures.  If you add the components of the first three numbers to their fourth power, it lends the same. 


1+1+1+1            =4

2+4+8+16         =30

3+9+27+81       =120



Use of Wir glauben alle an einen Gott

At measure 81, the cornerstone of this mathematical rectangle, there is a pause, followed by three chords ascending.  Some have claimed that this is a representation of the resurrection of Christ. 

But why would one assume that this piece is religious?  Can one just assert that every grouping of three notes represents the holy trinity?  While these questions arose for me and possibly for others, Carol Jarman, who discovered the exponential rectangle above, shows that the opening statement of Chaconne in C Minor contains a motive from the German Lutheran chorale, “Wir glauben all an einen Gott,” essentially the Lutheran Credo.


The care and depth with which Buxtehude composed is a forerunner to Bach, who is speculated to have used a number system.  In this system, C=3, R=17, etc. until CREDO = 43.  In his B minor mass, he used the word Credo 43 times. 

This type of mathematical writing, seen again in the modern music of the 20th Century, may not yield the listeners the pieces of the puzzle, but it does create an interesting study for those holding the sheet music.

In comparison to the music of the early baroque, this piece is clearly in the baroque style, with none of the leftover material of the Renaissance that one sees in the first part of the 17th Century.  There is almost constant movement with very few pauses for rest.


I found the analysis of this piece to be very interesting, especially the mathematical side.  It is always impressive to see what composers will do to tinker with music as a craft.

Works CitedEdit

Buxtehude’s Ciacona in C Minor and the Nicene Creed

Carol Jarman

The Musical Times. Vol. 146, No. 1891 (Summer, 2005), pp. 58-69

Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.

Article DOI: 10.2307/30044090

Article Stable URL:



Buxtehude- Chaconne in C minor- Buxwv 159

Posted by LilyGraow on YouTube, April 26, 2012