musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562 - 1621): "The Complete Keyboard Works"

Bob van Asperen, harpsichorda, virginal; Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichordc, virginald; Pieter van Dijk, organe; Pieter Dirksen, harpsichordf, virginalg; Leo van Doeselaar, organh; Gustav Leonhardt, harpsichordi; Reitze Smits, organj; Marieke Spaans, harpsichordk, virginall; Harald Vogel, organm; Alexander Weimann, harpsichordn; Bernard Winsemius, organo
Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam/Harry van der Kampp

rec: Oct 1971i; July 2009o, June 2012 - Feb 2014, Amsterdam, Oude Kerk; Dordrecht (NL); Hamminkeln (D), Schloss Ringenberg; Kantens (NL), Antoniuskerk; Leiden, Pieterskerk; Lemgo (D), Kirche Sankt Marien; Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum; Osteel (D), Warnfriedkirche; Uttum (D), Reformierte Kirche
Glossa - GCD 922410 (6 CDs) ( 2015) (7.24'40")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Allein Gott in der Hh sey Ehr (SwWV 299)k (with Hieronymus PRAETORIUS (1560-1629), Die VI. Melodey a 4q); Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (SwWV 309)h (with Hieronymus PRAETORIUS, Die V. Melodey a 4q); Almande de chapelle (SwWV 317)m; Almande Gratie (SwWV 318)g; Canon on the melody of Psalm 36/68 (SwWV 196)h; Christe qui lux es et dies (SwWV 301)eq; Da pacem Domine in diebus nostris (SwWV 302)pq; Die flichtig Nimphae (SwWV 331)l; Engelsche Fortuyn / Fortune my foe (SwWV 320)a (with setting a 4 by Pieter Dirksenq); Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott (SwWV 303)i (with Jacob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651), Die XXVIII. Melodey a 4q); Esce Mars (SwWV 321)l (with setting a 4 by Pieter Dirksenq) / j; Fantasia C1 'auf die Manier eines Echo' (SwWV 253)o; Fantasia C2 4 (SwWV 254)l; Fantasia C3 [Echo] (SwWV 255)l; Fantasia C5 (SwWV 257)i; Fantasia d1 'Crommatica' (SwWV 258)c; Fantasia d2 4 (SwWV 259)a; Fantasia d3 4 'Echo' (SwWV 260)k; Fantasia d4 [ 4: Echo] (SwWV 261)i; Fantasia d5 (SwWV 262)k; Fantasia F1 4 voci 'Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la' (Hexachord) (SwWV 263)p; Fantasia F2 4 (SwWV 264)n; Fantasia F3 'mit Bindungen' (SwWV 265)e; Fantasia G1 4 (SwWV 266)f; Fantasia G2 [ 2.3.4. vocem] (SWV 267)h; Fantasia G3 'Fuga 7. toni' (SwWV 268)h; Fantasia g1 [contraria 4] (SwWV 270)e; Fantasia g2 [ 3] (SwWV 271)n; Fantasia g3 [ 2] (SwWV 272)e; Fantasia a1 4 ['B.A.C.H.'] (SwWV 273)p; Fantasia a2 2,3: et 4 vocem' (SwWV 274)n; Fantasia a3 'auf die Manier eines Echo' (SwWV 275)h; Ich fuhr mich uber Rheine (SwWV 322)d; Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (SwWV 305)k (with David SCHEIDEMANN (c1574-1629), Die LV. Melodey a 4q); Jesus Christus, unser Heylandt (SwWV 306)n (with Joachim DECKER (c1575-1611), Die XLIII. Melodey a 4q); Malle Sijmen (SwWV 323)m; Mein junges Leben hat ein Endt (SwWV 324)g (with setting a 4 by Pieter Dirksenp); Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein (SwWV 307)p (with Joachim DECKER, Die LVI. Melodey a 4q); O God, die onse Vader bist (SwWV 308)iq; Pavana Hispanica (SwWV 327)a; Pavana Lachrymae (SwWV 328)b / j; Pavana Philippi (SwWV 329)c; Psalm 9, verse 11 (Chantez en exultation au Dieu qui habit'en Sion) - double fugue on a theme by Claude Lejeuneq; Psalm 23 (Myn Godt voedt my als mijn heerder ghepresen) (SwWV 310)p; Psalm 36 (Des boosdoenders wille seer quaedt) (SwWV 311)p; Psalm 60 (Heer die ons hebt verstooten al) (SwWV 312)p; Psalm 116 (Ick hebb' den Heer lief, want hy heeft verhoort) (SwWV 313)p; Psalm 140 (O myn Godt, wilt my nu bevryden) (SwWV 314)p; Puer nobis nascitur (SwWV 315)b (with trad, Ons is gheboren een kindekijnq); Ricercar a1 del nono Tono (SwWV 280)e; Soll es sein (SwWV 330)o; Toccata C1 (SwWV 282)a; Toccata C2 (SwWV 283)m; Toccata C3 5. Toni [ 3] (SwWV 284)h; Toccata d1 (SwWV 285)k; Toccata d2 Primi Toni (SwWV 286)o; Toccata d3 Primi Toni (SwWV 287)n; Toccata G1 (SwWV 288)m; Toccata G2 3 (SwWV 289)k; Toccata G4 (SwWV 291)m; Toccata g1 2di Toni (SwWV 292)d; Toccata g2 2di Toni (SwWV 293)o; Toccata g3 2di Toni (SwWV 294)d; Toccata g4 (SwWV 295)g; Toccata a1 Noni Toni (SwWV 296)a; Toccata a2 Noni Toni ('Praeludium Toccata') (SwWV 297)g; Toccata a3 4 Voc (SwWV 298)i; Unter der Linden grune (SwWV 325)o; Wir gleuben all an einen Gott (SwWV 316)i (with Jacob PRAETORIUS, Die LXXXIII. Melodey a 4q)
John BULL (1562-1628): Den lustelijken Meijf (with setting a 4 by Jacobus CLEMENS non Papa (c1510-1555/56)q); Fantasia on a theme of Sweelincko

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck can be considered one of the great composers of European stature from around 1600. That justifies the erection of a musical monument, which was initiated by Harry van der Kamp, director of the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam. For the first time Sweelinck's complete vocal works were recorded, not only the best-known part of his vocal output, the Cantiones Sacrae, but also his polyphonic settings of Psalms from the Genevan or Huguenot Psalter and his madrigals and chansons. Obviously the keyboard works - the basis of his international reputation - could not be omitted.

In 2002 NM Classics had already released a complete recording of Sweelinck's keyboard works, played by specialists of the keyboard of his time on the most appropriate instruments. However, in several respects the new recording is different. That is partly the effect of the latest results of musicological research, partly that of editorial decisions. The 2002 edition was very generous: it included not only all those works whose authenticity has been established, but also pieces which can be attributed to Sweelinck, compositions doubtfully attributed to him, compositions probably incorrectly attributed to him, variants of works by Sweelinck from the pen of others and anonymously transmitted compositions from Sweelink's circle. Moreover, some pieces were played twice, on organ and on harpsichord respectively.

In comparison this new edition is more moderate: the 2002 edition consists of nine discs, the present one comprises only six. This can be partly explained by the omission of performances of pieces on both organ and harpsichord. This is in line with Pieter Dirksen's pointing out in his liner-notes that Sweelinck "can be seen as one of the first composers to make a clear distinction between these two keyboard instruments". This results in the variations on secular tunes being played on strung keyboard instruments, and those on sacred subjects being performed on the organ. Dirksen also mentions that Sweelinck developed two types of Echo-Fantasias simultaneously, one for harpsichord and one for organ. In the latter the echo is played on the second manual, whereas in the former it is played mostly an octave lower on the manual, as most harpsichords in the Netherlands at the time were one-manual instruments.

Another editorial decision was to omit all those pieces which cannot be attributed to Sweelinck with a reasonable amount of certainty. That reduces the number of pieces being included, although research shows that some pieces which previously were considered doubtful are now ranked among those which can be firmly attributed to Sweelinck. The latter is the most obvious fruit of recent musicological research. One has to take into consideration that we owe the handover of Sweelinck's keyboard works to his pupils. His keyboard works were never printed, but found wide circulation in manuscript. One also has to assume that a considerable part of his output has been lost.

In Sweelinck's oeuvre we find various forms and in them several influences which he did not slavishly follow but treated in his very own way. In his variations on secular tunes we observe the influence of the English virginalists. Sweelinck knew some of them personally, such as John Bull and Peter Philips. Some of Sweelinck's pieces were included by Francis Tregian in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. It is through Sweelinck that the English tradition became part of the style of the North German organ school, many of whose representatives counted among Sweelinck's pupils, such as Heinrich Scheidemann. Overall Sweelinck is less abundant in his passagework, and he had a strong liking for writing variations in pairs. That comes also to the fore in his variations on sacred material, some hymns from Lutheran Germany, whom he may have become acquainted with through his German pupils (although there were also Lutheran congregations in the Netherlands), and also a small number of Psalms on tunes from the Genevan Psalter. The cantus firmus is either unaltered or ornamented.

The main free forms in Sweelinck's keyboard oeuvre are the toccatas and the fantasias. The toccata had its origin in Italy, and especially Venice, where it had the character of a particularly virtuosic showpiece. "He refines this Italian concept of virtuoso keyboard composition by adding English-style passagework and extensive polyphony" (Dirksen). Some toccatas include a fugal middle movement, and Sweelinck also seems to make a distinction within this genre between works for organ and pieces for harpsichord. Among the most brilliant of Sweelinck's keyboard works are the fantasias. "Here Sweelinck exhausted all the contrapuntal techniques, from large works on a single theme, to lighter Echo-Fantasias". The latter was not a Sweelinck invention, as it was a common phenomenon at the time, for instance in Italian music for the stage. But through Sweelinck it made its entrance in the North German organ school. In this category the distinction between organ and harpsichord works is demonstrated by the Hexachord Fantasia and the Fantasia crommatica respectively. Because the latter includes a d sharp, which was missing on Sweelinck's organ, it is specifically intended for the harpsichord.

Like I wrote, this is the second 'complete' recording. The team of interpreters is mostly different from that of the 2002 edition, although five of the performers in that edition have participated in the Glossa recording as well: Bob van Asperen, Pieter-Jan Belder, Pieter Dirksen, Leo van Doeselaar and Bernard Winsemius. However, as the recording dates show, their contributions are entirely new. A special case is Gustav Leonhardt: he was assumed to take part in this project, but passed away before he could deliver his contribution. In order to pay homage to his pioneering role in the development of historical performance practice and the revival of Sweelinck's keyboard music, this project includes two older recordings, realized not on a historical instrument, but a copy of a Ruckers harpsichord from 1961.

Although the 2002 edition is probably still available, it doesn't make much sense to compare them. The two editions are too different in regard to the choice of pieces. The previous edition is still worthwhile, because of the mostly different instruments - the virginal was not used at all in the 2002 edition - and the fact that some of the pieces were recorded both on the organ and on the harpsichord. Even if you have the previous edition, you should add this new one to your collection. I have outlined the differences between them above, but the interpretations are also a strong argument in favour of purchasing this set. All the interpreters are experts in early music, and this results in fully idiomatic and stylish performances. Moreover, the instruments have been carefully chosen, on the basis of their historical character - only real historical instruments have been used, not copies - and their character, in the case of the organs the disposition, pitch and temperament. A nice bonus is the fact that several of the variations on secular and sacred tunes are preceded by vocal versions, sometimes in a four-part harmonization by Pieter Dirksen, and splendidly sung by the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam.

The booklet includes an essay by Pieter Dirksen (unfortunately not without some editorial and printing errors), a detailed track-list, a complete index of Sweelinck's keyboard works, with the numbers in the catalogue of his works, based on the latest research, as well as the lyrics of the sung items. It is disappointing that the booklet omits any details about the instruments used for this recording. Especially information about the disposition of the organs would have been useful.

This set is a worthy monument of one of the greats in the history of European keyboard music.

Johan van Veen ( 2018)

Relevant links:

Pieter-Jan Belder
Pieter Dirksen
Leo van Doeselaar
Reitze Smits
Marieke Spaans
Alexander Weimann
Bernard Winsemius
Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam

CD Reviews