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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

The Orpheus of Amsterdam: Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck and his Pupils.
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)

Toccata in C [4:27]; Malle Sijmen [1:39]; Ricercar [11:40]
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)

Echo ad manuale duplex, forte & lente [9:46] (Echo ad manuale duplex, forte & lente [5:46]; -Echo alio modo…cantus variante [4:00])
Est-ce Mars [10:34] (Thema-Est-ce Mars [0:43]; 1. Variatio a 4 voci in cantu [0:43]; 2. Variatio a 4 voci in cantu colorato [1:04]; 3. Variatio bicinium in cantu [0:58]; 4. Variatio a 4 voci triplici contrapuncto [0:51]; 5. Variatio a 4 voci in cantu colorato [0:55]; 6. Variatio bicinium duplici contrapuncto [0:59]; 7. Variatio a 3 voci in cantu colorato [1:03]; 8. Variatio a 3 voci in cantu colorato [1:11]; 9. Variatio a 3 voci in basso colorato [0:54]; 10 Variatio a 4 voci in cantu colorato [1:13])
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c.1595-1693)

Magnificat VII toni [12:12]: (Versus 1 [1:55]; Versus 2 [3:15]; Versus auff 2 Clavier [4:50]; Versus pedaliter [2:12])
Gail Archer, organ
Rec: Wellesley College, Massachusetts, 11 January 2004 DDD
CALA CACD88043 [50:36]




On paper this makes for an interesting recital. Gail Archer is a teacher at Barnard College, Columbia University, and her own booklet notes are a model of informed comment. In fact it is almost a case of: read the booklet and set yourself up for disappointment. Ms Archer's enthusiasm for her repertoire - she is an active early music editor, too - alas does not seem to extend to actually creating the pieces as sonic entities.

Sweelinck's Toccata in C that opens the recital is in fact quite bright and generally breezy. Problems really begin with the Scheidt Echo ad manuale duplex, forte & lene from his 1624 collection Tabulatura nova. Ponderous in the extreme, this chunders along in its own sweet time and wears extremely thin by the end. In direct contrast to her booklet notes, Archer actually sounds bored. And it's catching. Malle Sijmen ('Silly Simon'), allegedly a dance-tune (a bit awkward to dance to this version) continues to reveal Sweelinck's bright nature. The twelve-minute Ricercar is indeed a wonderful piece of music and it is fitting it is placed at the very end of the recital.

Heinrich Scheidemann was, like Scheidt, a pupil of Sweelinck. According to Archer, Scheidemann the man was, 'friendly and affable ... merry and full of humour'. One would never guess it from his music. Apparently the Magnificat settings are Scheidemann's 'most distinguished compositions’. Archer's rhythmic liberties can seem distortive, so maybe it is not fair to judge on this airing. Versus I reminds the listener viscerally of the ponderous nature of the Scheidt, only it is more so. The third part, 'Versus auf 2 Clavier', manages to form a plateau of repose.

Scheidt's Variations on Est-ce Mars is a secular work that demonstrates Scheidt's contrapuntal prowess and far-reaching imagination. Archer's sense of directionality - melodic and harmonic - again threatens to scupper the musical processes here. Variation 7 is the most successful, dainty in its high register emphasis.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Chris Bragg



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