Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Master of the Dutch Renaissance
North German Baroque organ, Göteborg, Sweden
Oosthuizen, The Netherlands
Hattem, The Netherlands
Jonathan Dimmock, organist
Known as the “Orpheus of Amsterdam,” Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was the greatest single influence on the succeeding generation of north European organists and composers, including H. Scheidemann, J. Praetorius II, M. Schildt, and both Samuel and Gottfried Scheidt. Jonathan Dimmock brings these influential works to life on three landmark mean-tone organs in Holland and Sweden.
"This two-disc set is devoted primarily to music of Sweelinck, but also contains works of Heinrich Scheidemann, William Byrd, and an anonymous composer of works found in the Susanne van Soldt Notebook of 1599. Jonathan’s performances are exemplary, combining scholarly performance practice and solid technique with vital aural communication.
The program mixes sacred and secular works. The choice between harpsichord and organ for Sweelinck’s folksong variations was quite flexible at this period, and Jonathan makes a convincing case for the possibility—not the necessity—of playing works like Onder een linde groen and Mein junges Leben hat ein End’ on a brightly-voiced organ. The three Fantasias included here do profit from the sustained pipe sound, as do the two Psalm settings. ...The chorale variations, as with those Pachelbel, may have been conceived for home devotional use, hence for harpsichord or spinet, but their charm is evident in these organ performances. We may think of dance pieces as harpsichord or clavichord works, but the three anonymous selections here represent some of what Sweelinck may well have included in his civic concerts, which is where organ music (banned in Dutch Calvinist worship) was widely heard. And they do dance along on the vibrant one-manual organ of the Andreaskerk in Hattem, the Netherlands."
—The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians
A representative selection of organ works by Sweelinck is recorded on three very appropriate organs, all of which are tuned in meantone. Also included are two works by Scheidemann, and the variations on The Woods so Wilde by Byrd. The Oosthuizen instrument is dated 1521, while that at Hattem is from 1550. Both are single-manual, and speak boldly into spacious acoustics, giving us a taste of the sounds Sweelinck would have known. The third instrument is the reconstruction of a Schnitger by GOArt – a type of organ that would have been known by Sweelinck’s north German pupils, but which is much larger than he himself would have known.
Dimmock plays this music very persuasively, using the colours of each organ imaginatively and in line with the registration practices of this period. The temptation to use the large pedal section of the Örgryte organ in the third verse of Psalm 36 is the only place where the sound does not correspond with what Sweelinck might have known. This is a highly desirable set, well recorded and with fine sleeve notes and details of the organs.
—Choir and Organ (UK)
Sweelinck Goes Home—And Has Never Sounded So Good!
By Douglas FranksThe idea of “taking a musical journey” is pretty much a meaningless cliché—but not always! Organist Jonathan Dimmock’s two-CD set, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Master of the Dutch Renaissance, will send you on a rewarding musical journey to places you thought you knew but suddenly seem brand new. Dimmock, an accomplished and well-known Bay Area organist, traveled to northern Europe a couple of years ago to record the music of Sweelinck on “three landmark mean-tone organs” in Holland and Sweden: Hervormde Gemeente (Reformed Church) of Oosthuizen and Andreaskerk, Hattem (both in The Netherlands), and Örgryte Nya Kyrka, Göteborg (Sweden).
His CDs introduce you to three historic instruments in Sweelinck’s homeland, similar to ones Sweelinck himself might have played. The rich tonal resources of these instruments bring fresh, vibrant color to Sweelinck’s music; the mean-tone tuning of the organs endows the pieces Jonathan plays with exciting harmonic nuance; the spacious acoustics are realistically captured in the recordings; the breadth of selected repertoire weaves a vast aural tapestry that animates the legacy of this outstanding musical figure; the ULSI (Ultra Linear Stereo Image) recording technology results in superb organ-sound reproduction; finally, Jonathan’s consummate grasp of Sweelinck’s music and his artistry in realizing it so sensitively and flawlessly deliver a transcendent listening experience.
The first disc features the Oosthuizen and Andreaskerk instruments. The Oosthuizen organ, restored by Flentrop in 1967 and again in 2003, dates back to 1521 or earlier and is one of best-preserved 16th-century organs of northern Europe. The Andreaskerk organ also dates back to the 16th century with a restoration by Flentrop in 1974. Jonathan puts these one-manual instruments through their paces with sets of variations on secular melodies and chorale tunes, fantasias, and some fanciful Renaissance dances by Heinrich Scheidemann and William Byrd, contemporaries of Sweelinck. Byrd’s variations on The Woods so Wilde, written for English virginal, are absolutely idiomatic on the Dutch organs, especially at the hands of this organist who nimbly changes registrations in perfect synchronization with the seamless flow of Byrd’s short repetitive variations.
Much can be written extolling the elegance, virtuosity, and variety of Sweelinck’s compositions. He was guided by a sure sense of “stasis” and “kinesis,” that is, “long stretches of slow-moving notes . . . a sense of calm and ease at the beginning of a piece . . . concluding with a lengthy display of brilliance, fast scales, thick texture, and what we might describe today as an exhibition of pyrotechnics.” One could easily write at length, too, about Jonathan Dimmock’s skillful and insightful rendering of Sweelinck’s keyboard music in all its different forms.
A few words about mean-tone temperament, however, are a must. Simply put, some keys in mean-tone are more in tune than others, some intervals purer than others. To quote Jonathan’s notes, “the nature of mean-tone temperament means that certain chords have an agreeable sweetness to their sounds, others a disagreeable character. Sweelinck uses this ‘sweet and sour’ tonality to great advantage.” Harmonic tension is magnified and made more complex as the “sweetness” of exquisitely “in-tune” harmonies is continuously juxtaposed with the “sourness” of less “in-tune” harmonies, be the texture homophonic, melodic, or contrapuntal. Mean-tone tuning subtly yet discernibly shades the music, imbues it with a harmonic slipperiness and dynamism. Listen to these organs and you’ll hear.
The best single case in point of mean-tone in action would be Sweelinck’s Fantasia Chromatica, an extended through-composed work with a formulaic opening subject of long notes (“stasis”) descending by half-step. The chromatic melodic motion is energized by extra “closeness” between certain of the semitones, a characteristic of mean-tone. The build-up of accelerating passagework (“kinesis”) bouncing kaleidoscopically off the constant cycling of long notes further bends the bounds of intonation normally held in check by equal temperament.
The second CD features the organ at Örgryte Nya Kyrka in Göteborg. This four-manual, 54-stop instrument, built in the organ research workshop at Göteborg University and inaugurated in 2000, is “the scientific reconstruction of a large North German Baroque city organ from around 1700.” It is modeled after the work of Arp Schnitger, the most famous organ-builder in northern Germany the second half of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th.
If Sweelinck’s music comes vigorously to life on the Dutch organs, then it is supercharged by the Göteborg organ’s wealth of tonal resources. Whether a lone eight-foot flue stop plaintively calling out from a humble bicinium, or a plenum combination topped with brilliant mixtures and reeds, or something from the big canvas in between, the organ colors Jonathan applies in their turn glow every step of the way. He is not afraid to enlist solitary stops to register a piece. In the first of three variations on Psalm 36, Des boosdoenders wille seer quaet, he plays one of the most beautiful eight-foot principals you will ever hear. In the second variation, an equally fetching four-foot octave lovingly carries the melody in the pedal. Bang—in jumps the third variation with a full complement of pedal reeds! This is a track you will want to replay for the sheer thrill of it.
Like the first, disc two covers a range of Sweelinck’s compositions: Variations on psalm tunes, chorales and dances, plus a rollicking echo fantasia with deftly executed “echoing” phrases, some as fleeting as four beats. Pavana Lachrimae (Pavane of Tears), a melancholy dance based on a John Dowland song, exemplifies a more subdued side of Sweelinck’s expressive palette. Taking the cue, Jonathan plays the entire six-minute piece using single eight-foot flue stops on each manual, beginning with a delicate eight-foot principal on the Brust Positiv. In Ballo del granduca, a buoyant court dance, bright, imaginative registrations are used in the six component variations “to emphasize the playful nature of the music.” In short, the organist successfully matches registration with mood and content every time. His registration choices are in large part why the music crackles with life in these recordings.
The two-CD Loft Recordings package is a work of art in itself. Photographs of the organs, taken by the organist, generously adorn his own easy-to-digest program notes. Stoplists of the two Dutch organs are printed along with fascinating histories of all three organs. A stoplist of the Göteborg organ can be accessed online through the Gothic catalog website. Registrations for most of the tracks are published online as well; likewise, information about ULSI recording technology. To purchase or view details about Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Master of the Dutch Renaissance, go to <www.gothic-catalog.com>. The organist’s website is <www.jonathandimmock.com>.
Jonathan Dimmock’s CDs are sure to spark a new interest in and appreciation of Sweelinck’s organ music. They are the perfect resource for hearing Sweelinck with “new ears” and moving a few giant steps closer to understanding what makes his music so powerful and enduring. Renew your connection with this old Dutch master by owning a copy of this magnificent recording. It is—forgive me—a “musical journey” you will be glad you took.
—Newsletter of the San Francisco Chapter, American Guild of Organists
Even music-lovers with broad tastes, ones who can enjoy a wide variety of musical viands, may feel some resistance to particular genres or instruments. For one it might be bagpipes (a disc by gambist Lorenzo Ghielmi was memorably titled Bagpipes from Hell), for another it is accordian (especially when the genre is polka), yet for others, organ music is what sticks in the craw. I suppose what these three instruments have in common is that human breath, at least in a direct form, is not involved, so that listeners may perceive a mass of sound without inflection, particularly when, in the case of the organ, reverberant church acoustics are involved.
Jonathan Dimmock's well-programed survey of Sweelinck (?1562 - 1621) should win over even those with a long-standing and deep-seated resistance to organ music. It is full of light, air, breath, and dance. The mean-tone tuning for the three organs featured helps the chords to ring (imagine a loud consort of shawms and sackbuts, in tune). Dimmock has chosen both sacred and secular works by the great Netherlander and has spiced them with dances by Scheidemann, Byrd (slightly out of place here, but always welcome), and anonymous dances from the Susanne van Soldt manuscript. Dimmock has two discs of Romantic repertoire and a Bach recital to his credit; he also has participated in quite a few Bach cantata discs by the American Bach Soloists. To judge from this outing, Dommock has much to offer in earlier repertoire. I look forward to future discs from this charming artist.
—Early Music America
Jonathan Dimmock opens his
program notes to this recording by declaring Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
(1562-1621) “without doubt the greatest keyboard player of his day”–too bold a
statement to make about a contemporary of Frescobaldi, but Sweelinck was
certainly among the greatest. As organist of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, where
he was appointed at the age of 15, he did not play for the Calvinist worship
services, but he gave daily organ performances and was regarded as one of the
city’s cultural treasurers. Most if not all of his performances were
improvised, and the organ compositions that have come down to us almost
certainly began as improvisations.
The pieces on the first disc are played on two small Dutch
organs of the 16th Century. The organ at the Reformed Church in
Oosthuizen dates from 1521. It has a single manual, no pedals, and only seven
speaking stops. One of these, a 16-foot bourdon, dates from the early 18th
Century. It is housed in a beautifully proportioned case in an elegant west
gallery shown in a color photograph on the back cover of the booklet. The organ
at St. Andrew’s Church, Hattem dates from around 1550. It was enlarged in 1625
and 1677 and further modified in 1875. Flentrop restored it to its 1677 specification
in 1974. It has one manual and nine speaking stops with pull-down pedals. The
organ is mounted high on the church’s side wall. The instrument heard on the
second disc is described as “the scientific reconstruction of a large North German
baroque city organ from around 1700”. Begun in 1989 and completed in 2000, the
instrument has four manuals and pedals and is based primarily on the work of
Arp Schnitger. It is in the Orgryte Nya Church in Göteborg,
Sweden. All three organs have meantone tuning, and Dimmock repeatedly stresses
the importance of this for projecting the proper character of the compositions.
Looking at other recordings of Sweelinck’s organ works,
there is a handful of pieces that seems to recur in nearly every program, and
most are present here, along with some that are lesser known. Many are sets of
variations on familiar Lutheran chorales or Calvinist psalm tunes. The setting
of Psalm 23 is a very recently discovered work. In this case Dimmock plays only
the first variation, as he doubts the authenticity of the second and third. In
addition to the works of Sweelinck, the first disc includes two pieces by his
pupil Heinrich Scheidemann and one by this contemporary William Byrd
(Fitzwilliam Virginal Book). As it happens there are four pieces by Sweelinck
himself in the Fitzwilliam Book, among them the Hexachord Fantasia included
here. This helps to illustrate the clear stylistic link between Sweelinck’s
variations and fantasias and those of the English virginalists.
All three organs are beautifully recorded. The tone is clear
and crisp, but in all cases elegantly refined. I often find that historic
tuning systems grate on the ear with gratuitous sourness, but here the meantone
tuning lends character to the music such as even a modern ear accustomed to
equal exhibits its character most unmistakably in the ‘Fantasia Chromatica’.
Judging from the reviews by my colleagues of other
recordings of Sweelinck, a common interpretive failing is a preoccupation with
historic technique to the extent that the music becomes brittle and lifeless.
That is certainly not the case here. Dimmock’s performances are elegantly
stylish and display a keen understanding of how the music moves. To that end he
offers a sensitive command of flexibility in phrasing and agogic nuance—that
most valuable interpretive resource for the organist. I can unhesitatingly
recommend this to the experienced listener as well as to one who wishes to make
a first acquaintance with the organ works of Sweelinck.
Among other notable recordings is a nine-disc set of
Sweelinck’s complete keyboard works played by nine organists on 13 instruments
and six harpsichordists on three instruments (NM 92119; Sept/Oct 2007). We also
praised a recording by Serge Schoonbroodt (Aeolus 10201; March/April 2007) and
a two disc set played by Christopher Herrick (Hyperion 67421; Jan/Feb 2004).
Gatens - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
This two-disc set is devoted primarily to music of
Sweelinck, but also contains works of Heinrich Scheidemann, William Byrd, and
an anonymous composer of works found in the Susanne
van Soldt Notebook of 1599. Jonathan’s performances are exemplary,
combining scholarly performance practice and solid technique with vital aural
communication. He uses three organs, two in the Netherlands and one in Sweden,
all in mean tone temperament, which elegantly demonstrates the “raw” sound as
one progresses from one key base to another.
The program mixes sacred and secular works. The choice
between harpsichord and organ for Sweelinck’s folksong variations was quite
flexible at this period, and Jonathan makes a convincing case for the
possibility—not the necessity—of playing works like Onder een linde groen and Mein
junges Leben hat ein End’ on a brightly-voiced organ. The three Fantasias included here do profit from
the sustained pipe sound, as do the two Psalm settings. (As a personal note, I
would direct players who like the Sweelinck Psalm settings to the marvelous,
later ones (1659) by Anthoni van Noordt, published by Bärenreiter.) The chorale
variations, as with those Pachelbel, may have been conceived for home
devotional use, hence for harpsichord or spinet, but their charm is evident in
these organ performances. We may think of dance pieces as harpsichord or
clavichord works, but the three anonymous selections here represent some of
what Sweelinck may well have included in his civic concerts, which is where
organ music (banned in Dutch Calvinist worship) was widely heard. And they do
dance along on the vibrant one-manual organ of the Andreaskerk in Hattem, the
The second disk was recorded entirely on the IV/54
instrument of North German Baroque style in the Nya Kyrka, Göteborg, Sweden.
This organ has some deliciously pungent sounds that enliven the music
wonderfully; it also has an unusually clean speech that accommodates truly
sharp articulations. The only selection that I find not quite suited to the
organ is Sweelincks’s famous keyboard arrangement of the John Dowland Pavana Lachrimae, though it is still
worth hearing in this medium. On the other hand, the Echo Fantasia that immediately follows is uniquely suited to organ
The liner contains an introduction, brief notes on the
works, some information on the organs (with most of that for the instrument in
Sweden available online), a biography, credits, and quite a few photographs.
Engineering by Erik Sikkema is of the very highest order; the clarity of sound
is admirable throughout.
—Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians
Recorded at the Reformed Church of Oosthuizen, The Netherlands, on 10 July 2006
Track 1: Variations on “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr"
- 1st var: 16, 8, 4, 3, mix, sexqui
- 2nd var: 16, 8, 4
- 3rd var: 4
- 4th var: 8, 4, 3, mix
Track 2: Paduana Lachrymae (nach J. Dowland) by Heinrich Scheidemann
- m. 1: 16, 8
- m. 17: 8
- m. 33: 16, 8
- m. 49: 8
- m. 65: 16, 8
- m. 82: 8
Track 3: Onder een linde groen
- 1st var: 2
- 2nd var: 8
- 3rd var: 8, 2
- 4th var: 16, 8, 4, mix
Track 4: Fantasia (Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la)
- m. 1: 8, 4
- m. 58: 8, 4, 3
- m. 74: 8, 2
- m. 98: 8, 4, 3, mix
Recorded at Andreaskerk, Hattem, The Netherlands, on 11 July 2006
Track 5: Variations on “Mein junges Leben hat ein End”
- 1st var: P8, H8
- 2nd var; H8, R4
- 3rd var: R4
- 4th var: H8, F2
- 5th var: P8, O4
- 6th var: H8
Track 6: Fantasia chromatica
- m. 1: P8
- m. 70: + O4
- m. 119: + F2
- m. 149: + Mix
Track 7: Galliarda ex D (Scheidemann)
- Opening: P8, O4
- 2nd var: P8, O4, O2
Track 8: The Woods so Wilde (William Byrd) (registrations not available)
Susanna van Soldt Notebook (registrations not available)
Track 9: Almande
Track 10: La reprysse
Track 11: Almande Brun Smeedelyn
Track 12: Reprynse Brun Smeedelyn
Track 13: Pavane Prymera
Recorded in the Örgryte Nya kyrka, Göteborg, Sweden, on 10-11 January 2007
Erbarme dich mein, o Herre Gott
- Var. 1: RP: Blockfl 4'; BP: Trech.
- Var. 2: RP: + 2; Ped: T8, P4
- Var.3: OP: Vox; Ped: P8
- Var. 4: RP: F4, Trem; Ped: O4
- Var. 5: OP: P8, O4
- Var. 6: RP: G8, Ses, Behrpf8, Sch, 1 1/8, O4, O2; HW: P8, O4, O2; Ped: Sub16, P8
Tracks 5-10: Balletto del granducca
- Var. 1: BP: O4
- Var. 2: OP: Zincke 8, O4, O2; RP: Ged8, P4
- Var. 3:OP: F8, Rohr; HW: Spitzfl8; OP/HW
RP: Dulc 16, F4
- Var. 4: BP: P8, F4, Sex, P4; OP: F8, F4, F2
- Var. 5: OP: F4
BP: F4 (echo)
- repeat of Var. 1: OP: P8, Sch, Zincke, O2, O4
Tracks 11-13: Des boosdoenders wille seer quaet
- Var. 1: RP: P8
- Var. 2: RP: Bahrp8, F2; Ped: O4
- Var. 3: HW: reed16, P8, O4, O2, mix, Rausch; BP: P8, Hohl4, Dul, Sch, O4; Ped: P16, O8, O4, reeds 32, 16, 8, 2
Track 14: Paduana Lachrimae
- BP: P8; OP: Hohlfl 8; HW: Spitzfl 8- RP: Ged 8
Track 15: Echo Fantasia
- RP: P8; - HW: O8, O4, Rausch; OP: P8, F4, Nas3
Tracks 16-18: Herzlich lieb had ich dich, o Herr
- Var. 1: HW: P16, O8, O4, O2
- Var. 2: OP: P4; Ped: rd 4
- Var. 3: OP: F4, Vox; HW: P8
Track 19: Psalm 23 (Registration unavailable)
Track 20: Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein
- Var. 1: BP: Dulc 8, F2, P4; OP: P8, Gems 2, Nas 3, O4
- Var. 2: HW: P8, O4; OP: Tr8, P8, O4; Ped: Tr8, O8, O4
- Var. 3: RP: P8, Dulc 16, 1 ½, O2, O4, Qu; Cymbelstern
RECORDED AT THE REFORMED CHURCH OF OOSTHUIZEN, THE NETHERLANDS:
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr—Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
Paduana Lachrymae—Heinrich Scheidemann (nach J. Dowland) (1595-1663)
Onder een linde groen—Sweelinck
Fantasia (Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la)—Sweelinck
RECORDED AT ANDREASKERK, HATTEM, THE NETHERLANDS:
Mein junges Leben hat ein End’—Sweelinck
Galliarda ex D—Scheidemann
The Woods so Wilde—William Byrd (1535/1543?–1623)
From the Susanne van Soldt Notebook (1599)—anon.
Almande Brun Smeedelyn
Reprynse Brun Smeedelyn
TOTAL TIME: 60:05
RECORDED IN THE ÖRGRYTE NYA KYRKA, GÖTEBORG, SWEDEN:
All works by Sweelinck:
Erbarme dich mein, o Herre Gott
Ballo del granduca
Psalm 36: Des boosdoenders wille seer quaet
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr
Psalm 23: Mijn Godt voedt mij als mijn Herder ghepresen
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621) was, without doubt, the greatest keyboard player of his day, the first known organ recitalist, the most famous and ingenious improviser of his lifetime, the greatest single influence on the succeeding generation of northern European composers and performers, and one of the earliest musical entrepreneurs. In an era when organs were banned from worship services in Calvinist Holland, Sweelinck became an employee of the state instead of the church, playing daily organ concerts (lunch time) at the magnificent organ in the Oude Kerk for the workers in the area. These concerts would have been entirely improvised, probably featuring sets of variations on popular secular melodies and religious melodies (Dutch Psalter tunes). It was this music that he would write out later and turn into the printed compositions that we have today.
Sweelinck spent his entire life in Amsterdam, becoming organist at the Oude Kerk at age 15, and holding the post until his death 44 years later. Among his many students are all the leaders of the early Baroque in northern Germany, including Scheidemann (also on this recording), J. Praetorius, Schildt, Siefert, and Scheidt. Sweelinck’s music can be characterized by two words: stasis and kinesis. Long stretches of slow-moving notes, always gravitating towards a central tonality, start many of his keyboard works. Often during these opening sections, only brief spurts of technical prowess provide a foreshadowing of physical demands that the player will encounter a few pages further in. Time and again, the listener will note a sense of calm and ease at the beginning of a piece, only to find the work concluding with a lengthy display of brilliance, fast scales, thick texture, and what we might describe today as an exhibition of pyrotechnics.
When played on a mean-tone organ this music has a freshness and clarity that the world would not hear again until the writing of young Mozart. The nature of mean-tone temperament means that certain chords have an agreeable sweetness to their sounds, others a disagreeable character. Sweelinck uses this “sweet and sour” tonality to great advantage. This should be very evident on this recording. All organs, and probably all harpsichords, were tuned in mean-tone temperament during Sweelinck’s day. The modern Western ear, accustomed to equal temperament tuning, once thought that unequal temperaments sounded out of tune. But with the advent of globalization, and the ability to hear music of different cultures and exotic instruments, our ears are now more accepting of different tuning systems.
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr is a set of four variations on the “Gloria” of the German Lutheran mass.
Many composers chose English Renaissance composer John Dowland’s remarkable tune, Paduana Lachrymae, to create a set of variations. This set is most likely written by Heinrich Scheidemann (1595-1663), Sweelinck’s pupil.
The variations on Onder een linde groen (also known by its German title, “Unter der Linden grüne”) are most likely based on an English tune “All in a garden green.”
Fantasia (Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la) is a free-composed fantasia based on the first six notes of the major scale.
Mein junges Leben hat ein End’ is Sweelinck’s most popular set of variations, performed as often by harpsichordists as organists. This popular tune in Sweelinck’s day was about the end of one’s youth. Each of Sweelinck’s six variations lends a different character to the tune, yet all with a slight sense of melancholy and nostalgia. It would seem that the fond remembrance of, and longing for, one’s youth is not an invention of our modern world!
Fantasia Chromatica exercises the richness of mean-tone tuning with its changing character, modulating from major to minor and back to major.
Because his music lends itself so beautifully to the organ in Oosthuizen (and to mean-tone temperament), I decided to include Scheidemann’s Galliarda ex D and Variation with the Sweelinck music. Upon first listening, it is clear that this is dance music, quite possibly intended for performance by an organ or harpsichord in a royal court. Although not as metrically complex as what William Byrd was doing at the same time across the English Channel, this music nonetheless has an undeniable exuberance.
The Woods so Wilde, by William Byrd (1535/1543?–1623), is taken from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and uses a very simple tune for its basis, which is then followed by 13 variations. Byrd was a contemporary of Sweelinck, and, like Sweelinck’s, Byrd’s keyboard music is best heard on mean-tone instruments.
Three works from the Susanne van Soldt manuscript of 1599 complete the first disc and are contemporary.
Erbarme dich mein, o Herre Gott is a set of six variations on the tune that was used for singing Psalm 51. This is a penitential psalm that is plea for God’s mercy. The first variation is in two parts, the second in three parts, the third in four parts. When the psalm tune is “hidden” in the interior parts (tenor or bass), I have elected to play it on the pedals.
Ballo del granduca is a dance tune, far lighter in character than the psalm that precedes it. I’ve elected to use registration that could have been heard in a royal court ballroom, to emphasize the playful nature of the music.
The tune Des boosdoenders wille seer quaet for Psalm 36 is, by far, the longest chosen for this recording. Although consisting of only three variations, it is longer than nine minutes. This beautiful tune was shortened and used in England and America as Psalm 113 (now called Old 113th in many hymnals).
A “Pavane of tears,” Pavana Lachrimae is Sweelinck’s beautiful rendition of the popular tune by John Dowland. For this piece, I alternate between four different soft sounds of the Örgryte organ, each on a different keyboard.
Today we take it for granted that nearly all organs have two or more manuals (keyboards), but such was not always the case. Rare was the village organ with more than one keyboard and a few pedal notes that could be “pulled down” from the manual (as opposed to independent stops). The major cities, especially Amsterdam where Sweelinck spent his life, would have had organs with more than one manual, however. To show off what these instruments could do, Sweelinck wrote numerous “echo” fantasias. The Echo Fantasia recorded here demonstrates the clear delight that the composer (and original performer) must have had in showing the capability of his instrument.
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr also uses a familiar German Lutheran chorale for its theme. This recording contains the first three of the four published variations. The fourth is considered spurious.
This setting of Psalm 23 has only recently been discovered (early twenty-first century) and certainly seems to convey many of Sweelinck’s techniques. I question whether the second and third variations are authentic, and have therefore only recorded the first variation with its somber sweetness.
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein is a straight-forward and delightful setting of the German Christmas chorale.