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As well as being one of the most famous organists and teachers of his time, Sweelinck was the last and most important composer of the musically rich golden era of the Netherlanders. His output comprises seventy works for keyboard, which represent some of the most richly imaginative music of the period, yet none was published during his lifetime.
Robert Woolley has a large discography on Chandos, both as a soloist and as a member of The Purcell Quartet, the ensemble he co-founded in 1983. An internationally regarded authority on the music of this period, he broadcasts regularly for the BBC and has performed and recorded on many historic instruments. On this recording, he plays two instruments: a modern copy by Malcolm Rose of the Lodewijk Theewes claviorgan of 1579, a harpsichord-organ combination which has belonged to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London since 1890; and a rarely heard virginal, or muselar, by the firm Adlam Burnett, based on an instrument of Ioannes Ruckers from 1611 in the Finchcocks collection.
None of the music in this varied and rewarding programme is well represented in the catalogue.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Toccata Noni toni, SwWV 297
Toccata Noni toni, SwWV 297
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Est-ce Mars, SwWV 321
Est-ce Mars, SwWV 321
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Pavana Lachrymae, SwWV 328
Pavana Lachrymae, SwWV 328
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Almande Gratie, SwWV 318, "More Palatino"
Almande Gratie, SwWV 318, "More Palatino"
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Toccata C2, SwWV 283
Toccata C2, SwWV 283
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Vluchtige nymph, SwWV 331
Vluchtige nymph, SwWV 331
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Toccata primi toni, SwWV 286
Toccata primi toni, SwWV 286
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Mein junges Leben hat ein End, SwWV 324
Mein junges Leben hat ein End, SwWV 324
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Toccata a 3 G2, SwWV 289
Toccata a 3 G2, SwWV 289
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Pavana Philippi, SwWV 329
Pavana Philippi, SwWV 329
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Toccata Secundi toni, SwWV 292
Toccata Secundi toni, SwWV 292
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Engelse fortuin, SwWV 320, "Von der Fortuna werd ich getrieben" (Fortune My Foe)
Engelse fortuin, SwWV 320, "Von der Fortuna werd ich getrieben" (Fortune My Foe)
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Onder een linde groen (Unter der Linden grune), SwWV 325
Onder een linde groen (Unter der Linden grune), SwWV 325
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Fantasia chromatica in Dorian mode, SwWV 258
Fantasia chromatica in Dorian mode, SwWV 258
“What a fine composer Sweelinck was! This volume drives the point home by presenting several of his best compositions, including the imaginatively patterned variations on Esce mars and Unterder Linden grune, the weighty and implacable Fantasia crommatica (how Bach would surely have admired this piece) and the hauntingly beautiful variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein Endt. Other works here include a take on Peter Philips's Pavana dolorosa, a lovingly plumped-up version of Dowland's Lachrymae, and a handful of improvisatory toccatas. Sweelinck brings together in his music many of the influences current in the first years of the 17th century – Italian flair, north European seriousness, English resonance and melodic grace – and makes of them a rich and rewarding brew, maintaining coherence by the force of his own good taste and sound compositional judgement. Robert Woolley switches between two marvellous harpsichords – Malcolm Rose's currently much-in-demand copy of the Victoria and Albert Museum's 1579 Theewes claviorganum, and a deep and mellow copy by Derek Adlam of a 1611 Ruckers virginals. His playing, too, covers most bases. Without forcing the pace, he shows brilliant fingerwork in Esce mars or a piece like the Toccata C2, and achieves clarity and composure in the more melodically driven works. The toccatas occupy a convincing middle ground between the improvisatory and the written- out in feel, and tempi are for the most part expertly judged. In other words, these are pleasingly natural performances. There is not much competition in the world of Sweelinck recordings, but this stands out as an excellent harpsichord release in its own right.”
“A rich, rewarding brew of imaginative harpsichord music, expertly played. …these are pleasingly natural performances. There is not much competition in the world of Sweelinck recordings, but this stands out as an excellent harpsichord release in its own right.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.