musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Dutch Delight - Organ music from the Golden Age"

Matthias Havinga, organ

rec: April 30 - May 2, 2014, Zeerijp, Jacobuskerk
Brilliant Classics - 95093 ( 2015) (75'42")
Liner-notes: E/D/N
Cover & track-list

anon: Almande Brun Smeedelyn (XIII) [1]; Almande prynce (XIV) [1]; Daphne (LVI) [5]; De frans galliard (IV) [1]; Serbande (XXXVI) [4]; Wilhelmus (XLIX) [4]; Gerhardus HAVINGHA (1696-1753): Ouverture VIII (vivace) [7]; Anthoni VAN NOORDT (c1619-1675): Psalm 24 [6]; Cornelis SCHUYT (1557-1616): Padovana & Gagliarda (del decimo modo) [3]; Henderick SPEUY (c1575-1625): Psalm 118 [2]; Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621): Almande gratie (More Platino) (SwWV 318); Ballo del Granduca (SwWV 319); Fantasia a 3 in g minor (SwWV 271); Fantasia chromatica (SwWV 258); Malle Sijmen (SwWV 323); Mein junges Leben hat ein End (SwWV 324); Psalm 36 (SwWV 311)

[1] div, Susanne van Soldt-manuscript, 1599; [2] Henderick Speuy, De Psalmen Davids, gestelt op het Tabulatuer van het Orghel end Clavecymmel, 1610; [3] Cornelis Schuyt, Dodeci Padovane et altretante Gagliarde composte nelli Dodeci Modi, 1611; [4] div, Leningrad-manuscript, c1650; [5] div, Camphuysen-manuscript, after 1652; [6] Anthoni van Noordt, Tabulatuur-boeck van Psalmen en Fantasyen, 1659; [7] Gerardus Havingha, VIII Suites voor de Clavecijmbal off Spinet, 1725

Organists were among the most respected musicians in the 16th and 17th centuries in many countries in Europe. They not only played a key role in liturgy but were also active in musical life in the towns where they lived and worked. The Low Countries were somewhat different. Since the Reformation the organ had not been used in Sunday services. The congregation sang its Psalms unaccompanied. That changed around the middle of the 17th century, when the dismal state of congregational singing became unbearable. Before that time organists - mostly in the service of city councils - played improvisations before and after services and on weekdays when churches were used as a kind of market-place. They preferably improvised on the tunes of the Genevan Psalter in order to make them better known. Very few variations on Psalm tunes from the late 16th and early 17th centuries have come down to us, for exactly the same reason why the repertoire by representatives of the North-German organ school is rather limited: organists were expected to improvise and organ music was hardly ever printed. It is mostly through copies by pupils that we know a part of their improvisations. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck is a good example. Obviously this sometimes leads to doubts about a piece's authenticity. Some scholars believe that Sweelinck's Ballo del Granduca is from the pen of his German pupil Samuel Scheidt.

Sweelinck is the main figure on the present disc by Matthias Havinga who recorded a survey of "organ music from the Golden Age". That subtitle isn't quite correct as a large part of the music selected for this recording is not specifically intended for the organ but rather for any keyboard instrument. Especially the dances and the variations on secular tunes were mostly written for domestic performance on instruments such as harpsichord, spinet or virginals. The Padovana and Gagliarda by Cornelis Schuyt are not even intended for a keyboard instrument but rather for a consort of instruments, such as gambas or recorders. The movement from Gerardus Havingha's Ouverture VIII is for the harpsichord. It is taken from a set which dates from 1725 - well after the end of the Golden Age: roughly speaking from 1600 to c1675.

The dances have mostly been preserved in manuscripts. One of these is the so-called Susanne van Soldt-manuscript. (A large selection from this source was recorded by Guy Penson). Others are the Camphuysen-manuscript and the Leningrad-manuscript which dates from around 1650. From the latter comes one of the most interesting little pieces here, a version of the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus which is very different from the version sung today. Most of these pieces are anonymous, and that also goes for the three variations on Daphne, known in Britain as When Daphne from fair Phoebus did fly.

This disc includes a number of pieces by composers who are not that well-known, certainly not outside the Netherlands. Among them are Henderick Speuy, Anthoni van Noordt and the above-mentioned Cornelis Schuyt. It is remarkable that Van Noordt's Tabulatuur-boeck - one of the most important collections of 17th-century Dutch organ music - has never been recorded complete. A selection was recorded by Leo van Doeselaar (NM Classics, 1991). Speuy is hardly represented on disc and that also goes for Schuyt. The Dutch have not shown a great interest in their musical heritage. It is telling that only recently the first complete recording of the oeuvre of arguably the greatest composer in Dutch music history, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, was completed.

That makes this disc all the more important, especially as the liner-notes are translated into English and German, allowing this repertoire to become better known outside the Netherlands. Moreover, Matthias Havinga is a stylish interpreter who knows exactly how to reveal the features of these pieces. The programme starts off and closes with compelling performances of two of Sweelinck's best-known works. This disc also offers the opportunity to listen to one of the finest historical organs of the Netherlands. It was built in 1651 and reconstructed in the 1970s. It is in the high pitch which was common in the 17th century (a=466 Hz) and in quarter-comma meantone temperament which is indispensable in music from this period.

This disc is a Dutch delight indeed.

Johan van Veen ( 2015)

Relevant links:

Matthias Havinga

CD Reviews