musica Dei donum
"O muse, comt nv voort - Dutch songs of love and freedom 1550 - 1750"
Margot Kalse, mezzosoprano;
Ellen van Munster, lute
rec: Oct 19 - 21, 2008, Delft, Oud-Katholieke Kerk
Aliud - ACD HJ 040-2 (© 2009) (64'42")
O Lief v derven;
[Gerbrand Adriaensz. BREDERO (1585-1618)]:
O Parl en puyck der vrouwen!;
[Dirck Raphaelsz. CAMPHUYSEN (1586-1627)]:
Ick hoor trompetten klincken;
[Dirk Volckertsz. COORNHERT (1522-1590)]:
Ter liefden van een Maghet;
[Willem Godschalk VAN FOCKENBROCH (1640-1670)]:
Indien ick daght ô schoone son!;
[Pieter Cornelisz. HOOFT (1581-1647)]:
Indien men poocht mijn hart;
Sterflijck geslacht, uw suchten schorst;
Naere nacht van benaude drie jaeren;
[Jan VAN HOUT (1542-1609)]:
Opt Ontset van Leyden;
[Willem Reijersz. DE LANGE (fl c1570-1605)]:
Helena antwoort tot Paris;
Helena schrijft tot Menelaus;
Thisbe claeght over de doot van Piramus;
[Jan VANDER NOOT (c1538 - c1596)]:
Ghelyck den dagheraet;
Van de ioncheit;
[Jan Jansz. STARTER (1594-1626)]:
Doen Daphne d'overschoone Maeght;
[Adriaen VALERIUS (c1575-1625)]:
Myn ziele treur;
[Joost VAN DEN VONDEL (1587-1679)]:
[Jacob Campo WEYERMAN (1677-1747)]:
Sa! Dan laat ons rustig raazen;
Een Zamenspraak tusschen Damon en een jong juffertje
Nicolaes VALLET (c1583-after 1642):
Psalm 12: Behoud, o Heer (Salvum Deus)
From the middle of the 16th century music making at home was a popular and widespread pursuit in the Netherlands. There were no royal or aristocratic courts with court chapels, and in the Protestant Churches only psalm singing by the congregation was allowed. So it was mainly the privacy of the home and public places like pubs where music was performed.
Part of the repertoire were songs, often so-called contrafacta, in which the text of existing music was substituted by a new text. In the second half of the 16th and in the 17th century poetry blossomed in the Netherlands. Many poems give indications as to the melodies to which they could be sung. But these are mostly not printed, and that makes it difficult to be sure which music was intended.
Over the last couple of decades much research has been done, and right now a database of melodies and texts is available. Experts have compared texts and melodies on the basis of number and length of lines and the metrical structure. As a result a number of poems can be sung. For this disc Margot Kalse has done some research of her own: "[F]or beautiful texts I have tried to find fitting tunes, and for beautiful tunes fitting, interesting texts".
This disc offers a selection from the large number of song books which were published in the Netherlands from the middle of the 16th to the early 18th century. Most pieces date from the first half of the 17th century, when the Netherlands were in the midst of their 'Golden Age'. Some of the best poets of the time are represented, like Joost van den Vondel and Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft.
The songs span a wide variety of subjects. Some deal with love, often written for a specific woman, others are of a religious or political nature. In the poems there are references to mythology and word-games. Some of them are explained, but Margot Kalse, who has written the liner-notes, could have been more forthcoming. And in the interest of foreign purchasers of this disc some explanation of the political connotations in several songs would have been very helpful. Even some Dutch readers may not understand what these songs are about as the knowledge of their country's history is often limited.
The music is also various: most melodies or songs are of French or Italian nature. And again, the notes in the booklet are rather sparse. It is mentioned that Hooft's poem Sterflijck geslacht, uw suchten schorst (O mortal race, do stop your sighs) [track 14] is sung to the tune Cessez, mortels de souspirez, but the composer is not mentioned. It is Pierre Guédron, a composer of many airs de cour in 17th century France. In fact, this poem is an adaptation of the text Guédron used, but that is also not mentioned.
Some melodies are of a truly international nature. The first item, for instance, is sung to the tune Doulce mémoire, one of the most famous chansons of the 16th century. And track 7, Helena antwoort tot Paris (Helena answers Paris) is sung on the melody of Tant que vivray, a famous French chanson. There are also sacred tunes. Track 2 uses the melody of the rhymed version of the Magnificat as it was composed in the circles of the Huguenots and included in the Genevan Psalter. From this collection also come the melodies of tracks 6 and 8, Psalms 48 and 128 respectively. And in track 16 we hear the original melody of what today is the Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus van Nassouwe.
The disc ends with two songs from the early 18th century which are of a quite different character. They are written by Jacob Campo Weyerman, one of the main literary representatives of the Enlightenment in the Netherlands. He was especially known for his satirical writings, and Sa! Laat ons dan rustig raazen is a specimen of that genre. The text is from a magazine, and as the liner-notes tell "Weyerman introduces an armchair that speaks about its occupants. Here we meet a 'podagrist', one who suffers from the gout but is nonetheless on a drinking bout, following the advice of a drunken doctor."
Margot Kalse studied Dutch, and specialized in Renaissance literature at Leiden University. She knows her way around this kind of repertoire, and has no problems with the correct pronunciation of the 17th-century texts. She gives very fine interpretations of the songs, and most performances seem complete. I am less happy with her pretty consistent use of a slight vibrato. But it doesn't diminish my enthusiasm for this disc which brings together first-rate texts and beautiful tunes. Elly van Munster delivers good support on the lute and contributes two fine solo pieces.
The programme notes are indeed rather sparse, but the booklet contains all lyrics with an English translation. Since only few composers have been mentioned I have only given the names of the poets in the track-list (names enclosed in brackets), except Nicolaes Vallet, the composer of the lute pieces.
Johan van Veen (© 2010)