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"Music from the Golden age of Rembrandt"

Carline Stam, sopranoa; Dorien Lievers, contraltob; Nico van der Meel, tenorc; Bas Ramselaar, bassd
Musica Amphione
Dir: Pieter-Jan Belder
rec: 2006, Deventer (Neth), Doopsgezinde Kerk; Amsterdam, Oude Kerk
Brilliant Classics - 93100 (2 CDs) (65'21" - 66'40")

anon: Daphne, variationsg; Johan Albert BAN (1597/98-1644): Me veux tu voir mourirc; Bernardino BORLASCA (c1580-c1631): Vijfde Fantasia [6]; Benedictus BUNS (c1640-1716): Sonata VII a 3 for 2 violins and bc in f sharp minor/E flat [12]; Pieter CORNET (c1575-1633): Salve Reginah; Jacob VAN EYCK (c1590-1657): Doen Daphne d'Over schoone Maegtf [8]; Carolus HACQUART (c1640-1702?): Sonata VIII a 4 for 2 violins, viola, viola da gamba and bc [11]; Christian HERWICH? (1609-1663): Concerto for violin, viola da gamba and bc [6]; Herman HOLLANDERS (fl 1st half 17th c): Antequam comedam suspiroc [4]; Cum inferni tenebrisabcd [4]; Dolor me compellit diceread [4]; Constantijn HUYGENS (1596-1687): De profundisd [7]; Quare tristis esb [7]; Usquequo, Dominea [7]; Vous me l'aviez bien ditc [7]; Tarquinio MERULA (1595-1665): 't Hane en 't Henne-gekray for 2 violins and bc [6]; Anthoni VAN NOORDT (c1619-1675): Psalm 2h [10]; Sybrandt VAN NOORDT (1659-1705): Sonata I for recorder and bc in Ffj [13]; Cornelis Thymanszoon PADBRUÉ (1592-1670): Dat ick betovert ben, madrigal a 4abcd [5]; Johann SCHOP (1590-1667): Almande for violin and bc [6]; Brande Mr. Primerose for violin and bc [6]; Sarabande op La Suedoise for violin and bc [6]; Cornelis SCHUYT (1557-1616): Canzona La Barca [1]; Pavaen en gagliarda 10 a 6 [1]; Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621): Hexachord fantasiah; More Palatinog; Pavaen Lachrimaeg; Pseaume 1 a 4 (Qui au conseil des malins)abcdh [2]; Nicolaes VALLET (c1583-c1645): Fortune angloisei [3]; Malle Sijmeni [3]; Slaep, zoete Slaepi [3]; Jan Baptist VERRIJT (c1600-1650): Quae habitas in hortiscd [9]

(Sources: [1] Schuyt, Dodeci Padovane, et altretante Gagliarde ... per sonare à 6, 1611; [2] Sweelinck, Livre troisième des Pseaumes de David ... à 4,5,6,7,8 parties, 1614; [3] Vallet, Secretum Musarum II: Het tweede boek van de luyt-tablatuer ghenoemt Het gheheymenisse der sangh-goddinnen, 1616; [4] Hollanders, Parnassus Ecclesiasticus [1631]; [5] Padbrué, Kusjes ... den tweeden druck vermeerdert ende verbetert met 5,4 ende 3 stemmen, met een basso continuo ..., op. 1, 1641; [6] P. Matthysz, ed., 't Uitnement Kabinet, 1646; [7] Huygens, Pathodia sacra et profana, 1647; [8] Van Eyck, Der Fluyten Lusthof ..., 1649; [9] Verrijt, Flammae divinae ..., liber primus, 1649; [10] A. van Noordt, Tabulatuur boeck van Psalmen en Fantasyen, 1660; [11] Hacquart, Harmonia Parnassia Sonatarum, 1686; [12] Buns, Orpheus Elianus a Carmelo in orbem editus, 1698; [13] S. van Noordt, Sonate per il Cembalo appropriate al flauto & violino ... opera prima, [c1701])

Pieter-Jan Belder, recorderf, harpsichordg, organh; Rémy Baudet, Elisabeth Ingenhousz violin; Esther van der Eijk, viola; Erik Beijer, Johannes Boer, Saskia Coolen, Wilma van der Wardt, viola da gamba; Harjo Neutkens, lutei; Menno van Delft, harpsichordj

There are probably not many people who have never heard of the name of Rembrandt. And many people also know he was one of the most famous painters in history. Artists often stood in close contacts to each other, even though they were active in different branches of art, like music, painting or literature. But: "We can hardly speak of a direct link between the work of Rembrandt and music. In comparison to his contemporaries he depicted only very few musicians and there are no acquaintances with musicians are known" (sic), Johannes Boer writes in the booklet. From this perspective it may be far-ferched to link this programme of music to Rembrandt. But it is a fact that the painter is the most prominent representative of what is generally considered the 'golden age' of the Netherlands: the 17th century.

Music in the 17th and 18th centuries reflect the state of the society. For instance, Italy and Germany were highly decentralised and consisted of a large number of more or less independent city-states and regions which were ruled by aristocratic families. As a result there were many places where composers could find employment, in comparison to France, which was a centralised state and where Paris and Versailles were the places to be. In the same way the character of music making and of compositions reflect the state of society. In this respect the Low Countries were rather unique: it was a decentralised state, but there were no aristocratic families ruling a part of the country as if it was their property. As a result music making was a matter of wealthy citizens, which is reflected by the kind of music composed and printed in the 17th century. In addition to that, there was no established church which appointed composers with the task of writing liturgical music. The dominant church was the Reformed Church which allowed only the congregation to sing metrical Psalms, not even accompanied by the organ. As a result religious music was either vocal music written to be sung in private meetings - like the polyphonic Psalm settings by Sweelinck - or organ music to be played by organists before and after services or during public concerts on weekdays.

The items on these two discs give a fairly good impression of the state of music making in the Netherlands. Of all composers represented only Sweelinck had a truly international reputation, and attracted many pupils from Germany. The other important figure on the programme is Constantijn Huygens, a man of many professions, who had widespread international contacts. It isn't surprising then that his only collection of music ever published, the Pathodia sacra et profana, was printed in Paris. The works of the other Dutch composers performed here will probably never have made it beyond the borders of the Low Countries.

A key role in music life was played by the collegia musica, assemblies of affluent citizens gathering together to play and sing music. The kind of music played in their meetings is reflected by the collection printed in 1646 under the title 't Uitnement Kabinet, which contains pieces by composers from different countries. Here three pieces by Johannes Schop are played - he is, of course, the German composer Johann Schop. Another German is Christian Herwich, and Tarquinio Merula and Bernardon Barlasca - also known as Bernardino Borlasca - are from Italy. As far as the instrumentation is concerned, the recorder was the most popular instrument in the Low Countries, and that is reflected by the printing of Jacob Van Eyck's Der Fluyten Lusthof, a collection of pieces for solo recorder by the famous recorder player and carillonneur from Utrecht.

It has to be said that the Dutch have treated their famous painters with much more respect than their composers. Most pieces on these discs are seldom performed in public concerts and even less frequently recorded. Even the perhaps greatest of all Dutch composers, Jan Pieterszoon Swelinck, is still waiting for the complete recording of his works. All his extant keyboard pieces have been recorded, but only a small portion of his sacred and secular vocal works. Composers like Schuyt, Padbrué, Verrijt, Buns and Hacquart are sparsely represented in the CD catalogue. Therefore this production is most welcome, even though a number of pieces were already represented on previous recordings with Dutch music. Sweelinck's keyboard pieces, the variations by Van Eyck, the anonymous variations on Daphne and the pieces by Huygens are all rather well-known. But one could also argue that the inclusion of some better-known pieces is a clever marketing ploy: this way those who are rather sceptical about the quality of the lesser-known pieces may buy this set and discover these compositions are unjustly neglected.

In generally I'm very happy with the quality of the performances. These are all fine musicians and first-rate representatives of the Dutch early music scene. Only a couple of remarks I would like to make. In the organ pieces I had sometimes liked a sharper articulation, in particular in the Salve Regina by Cornet. Sweelinck's setting of Pseaume 1 is a little under par: in Padbrué's madrigal the fur voices act more as an ensemble than here. The voices are supported by the organ, but considering the fact that these psalm settings were meant to be sung in private meetings this seems to be a little odd. A consort of viols had been a more logical option. And in one of the monodies by Huygens, Quare tristis es there is far too little ornamentation. The Latin texts are pronounced the Italian way - it is hard to imagine that this is historically correct.

Another point of criticism is the booklet: it contains a number of printing errors, I think someone should have had a critical look at the English programme notes and the text of one of the vocal items - Johan Albert Ban's Me veux tu voir mourir - is missing. All lyrics are given without English translations. And isn't it a little odd to print a picture of the ensemble with a number of musicians not involved in this recording?

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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