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Dutch Delight - Organ music from the Golden Age
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Fantasia chromatica (SwWV 258) [8:37]
Almande gratie (More Platino) (SwWV 318) [4:24]
Mein junges Leben hat ein End (SwWV 324) [7:11]
Wilhelmus/Almande prynce [2:02]
Henderick SPEUY (c1575-1625)
Psalm 118 [2:44]
Anthoni VAN NOORDT (c1619-1675)
Psalm 24 [7:49]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Ballo del Granduca (SwWV 319) [5:02]
Daphne [5:54]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Psalm 36 (SwWV 311) [9:42]
De frans galliard [0:50]
Serbande [1:45]
Almande Brun Smeedelyn [1:25]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Malle Sijmen (SwWV 323) [1:39]
Cornelis SCHUYT (1557-1616)
Padovana (del decimo modo) [4:21]
Gagliarda (del decimo modo) [1:46]
Gerhardus HAVINGHA (1696-1753)
Ouverture VIII: vivace [4:34]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Fantasia a 3 in g minor (SwWV 271) [5:44]
Matthias Havingha (organ)
rec. 2014, Jacobuskerk, Zeerijp, Netherlands. DDD

In many European countries in the 16th and 17th centuries organists were among the most respected musicians. 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. For preference they 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. This is 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 some part of their improvisations. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck is a good example. Obviously this sometimes leads to doubts about the authenticity of a piece. 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. 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; 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 c.1675.

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 (review). Others are the Camphuysen -manuscript and the Leningrad manucript 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 the same 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, who has already made two discs for Brilliant Classics which have been positively reviewed here (review; review) is a stylish interpreter who knows exactly how to reveal the features of these pieces. The programme starts and closes with compelling performances of two of Sweelinck's best 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


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