Review of Sweelinck: Master of the Dutch Renaissance
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was considered to be the finest keyboard player and improviser of his day. His captivating playing and influential teaching earned him the titles “Orpheus of Amsterdam” and “Maker of German organists.” His students were among the leading organist/musicians of the early Baroque in northern Germany. Sweelinck was the first known organ recitalist, playing lunchtime recitals for workers at the Oude Kerk, where he was organist for 44 years. These recitals likely consisted of improvised variations on popular sacred and secular melodies; they would become the foundation of Sweelinck’s printed works that have come down to us. In this recording, Jonathan Dimmock has chosen a well-balanced program of Sweelinck’s organ music based on sacred and secular melodies. It also includes a few compositions by his pupil Heinrich Scheidemann and his English contemporary William Byrd, as well as three brief dances from the anonymous Suzanne von Soldt Notebook (1599). The two historic instruments on which he performs are exquisite gems that are beautifully preserved. With bold, clear, singing voices, they perfectly convey this music. The well-known modern manifestation of a Schnitger-style organ built by GOArt for the Örgryte New Church is no less an ideal choice. Dimmock takes advantage of its multitude of colors and contrasts in the eight Sweelinck works that comprise the entire second disc. The use of small and large instruments reveals the rich diversity of Sweelinck’s musical character, from intimate to grandiose. Dimmock understands this music well. He performs with stylistic integrity, delightful spontaneity, and lithe rhythmic gestures, revealing the inventive genius, contrapuntal and rhythmic complexities, and direct appeal of this music. All elements – superb music, instruments, and playing – merge in this finely produced recording.