Dieterich Buxtehude was a German-Danish organist and composer of the Baroque period. His organ works represent a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and in church services. He composed in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental idioms, and his style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Today, Buxtehude is considered one of the most important German composers of the mid-Baroque.
Buxtehude's last post, from 1668, was at the Marienkirche, Lübeck which had two organs, a large one for big services and a small one for devotionals and funerals. There he succeeded Franz Tunder and followed in many of the footsteps of his predecessor. He married Tunder's daughter Anna Margarethe in 1668.
Although more than 100 vocal compositions by Buxtehude survive, very few of them were included in the important German manuscript collections of the period, and until the early twentieth century, Buxtehude was regarded primarily as a keyboard composer. His surviving church music is praised for its high musical qualities rather than its progressive elements, which is similar to that of Bach's later church music.
The nineteen organ praeludia (or preludes) form the core of Buxtehude's work and are ultimately considered his most important contributions to the music literature of the seventeenth century. They are sectional compositions that alternate between free improvisation and strict counterpoint. They are usually either fugues or pieces written in fugal manner; all make heavy use of pedal and are idiomatic to the organ. These preludes, together with pieces by Nikolaus Bruhns, represent the highest point in the evolution of the north German organ prelude, and the so-called stylus phantasticus. They were undoubtedly among the strongest influences of J.S. Bach, whose organ preludes, toccatas and fugues frequently employ similar techniques.