Abraham Van den Kerckhoven (1618-1701) was one of the
well-known, well-paid musicians who worked in Brussels. From 1632 he
served as an organist at St Catharine’s church, a post he kept for nearly
seventy years! All of his works are ‘in the form of a voluminous manuscript
acquired by the Bibliothèque Royale Albert 1er of Brussels’.
Most of them were used in liturgy and thus they are quite short. Some
similarities with the French classical style, implying the chosen registrations
are obvious in the titles of some of them.
The performed pieces of this CD ‘are of a much more
eloquent nature’ from the others on the same manuscript. They are lyrical
with flowing, virtuosic passages, but their form is not as strict as
one should expect from pieces of the same genre. On the contrary, they
represent a cosmopolitan composer of multiple influences: Anglo-Dutch,
French, Italian and Flemish.
The booklet is quite informative on this issue, which
is necessary for music that is not well known. The music is played on
the Westenfelder organ, which ‘combines characteristics of the French
classical organ, while incorporating elements of the Dutch and Spanish
styles’. It is not though an organ that succeeds in keeping the listener’s
interest all way through. The foundation and reed stops have a ‘steel’
sound quality, whereas the flutes are not soft and melodic enough.
Houtart’s playing in this CD does not reveal a good
musical quality. His chosen registrations do not seem to work on the
specific organ and according to the pieces’ needs. His articulation
is too much detached and the musical phrases are not well shaped. Certainly
this music and the specific organ need the performer’s help in order
to sound good, but unfortunately Houtart has not achieved that goal.