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Cat. No. CHAN 0701 Price: £5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0701 - Sweelinck: Organ Works
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Available From: 18 August 2003
The organ of the Pieterskerk in Leiden is the first seventeenth-century Dutch town organ to be restored to its original disposition, sonority and pitch. It also contains some of the earliest speaking pipes in existence, dating back to 1446, and is currently the largest organ in Europe tuned in ¼ comma meantone.

The van Hagerbeer brothers substantially rebuilt the organ in 1643, but reused some earlier pipework made by Jakob van Bilsteyn in 1446, Jan van Covelens in 1518 and Jan Jacobsz van Lin in 1629, from the previous organ. They made a new main case with a 24' front, and retained the fine Rugwerk case made by van Lin. The majority of the original pipework survived several subsequent renovations. In 1986 Jan van Biezen and Hans van Nieuwkoop devised a restoration scheme based on detailed historical investigation. It was decided to recreate the state of the organ as rebuilt by van Hagerbeer in 1643, but retaining stops added by Duyschot c. 1691 and Assendelft in 1744. Verschueren Orgelbouw restored the organ in 1994 - 98, making it ideal and unique for performing music of the seventeenth century.

Although rebuilt in 1643, this organ retains a number of the main features of the organs of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, where Sweelinck was organist. These include the large Hoofdwerk Principaal chorus mirrored by the smaller Rugwerk Principaal chorus; complementary flute choruses on the Bovenwerk and Rugwerk, including the Bovenwerk Holpijp 8', Gemshoorn 2' and Sifflet 1', and the Rugwerk Quintadeen 8', Holpijp 4' and Quintanus (Sifflet) 1½'; Trompeten on the Bovenwerk and the pedal; and meantone temperament at a pitch of A = 415 Hz. The most important differences were that the van Hagerbeer Hoofdwerk Principaal chorus was based on the lower 16' (24') pitch level, together with the addition of tierce-based Tertiaan and Sesquialtera mixtures (not used in this recording).

Detailed information about the organ and its restoration may be found in the monograph Een Hollands stadsorgel uit de Gouden Eeuw - Het Van Hagerbeer-orgel in de Pieterskerk te Leiden, ed. Willem-Jan Cevaal (Zutphen, 1999), with an English Summary on pp. 309 - 12.


A document from 1607 containing instructions for the Leiden organist Jan Janszoon van Sonnevelt gives a general idea of the 'tonal' structure of an organ recital in Sweelinck's time:

…he will play as usual at the beginning and end on the Principaal and in between will use and play all the stops and their combinations according to the rules of the art, without leaving any untouched, in order that they will not through misuse stiffen or become silent, as has happened at other times.

This pattern remained standard throughout the 'classic' period of North European organ playing. For instance, Mattheson also divided registration into two categories:

To the first belongs the full organ. To the second belong all the remaining diverse variations, which can be realised especially through the use of several manuals and weaker, but nevertheless carefully selected, stops.

This approach was followed in the present recording, using seventeenth-century Dutch registration practice.

The Toccata in A minor, D 31 / L 24 and Fantasia in G minor, D 12 / L 8 are played on the 16' (24') Hoofdwerk Principaal, with and without the Trompet respectively. The other toccatas and fantasias are played on the 8'-based Rugwerk Principaal to give more clarity to Sweelinck's intricate polyphonic textures. The Fantasia 'met bindingen' is played on the Hoofdwerk Prestant. As with the Prestanten of the other divisions, the pipes are doubled above c and tripled above f². The first register contains eighteen pipes dating from 1446.

The tenor and bass entries in the 'Hexachord' Fantasia (Ut re mi fa sol la) are doubled on the pedal Trompet. The pedal Trompet is also used for the cantus firmus in Variations 3 and 4 of Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, which bears the instruction 'Manualiter undt Pedaliter'. Here, the pedal cantus firmus was notated separately in the manuscript source, in tablature written below the left-hand six-line stave.

The solo sections of the Echo Fantasia in D minor are played on the Rugwerk Schalmei, with echoes on the Bovenwerk Voxhumana. In the sacred variations the seventeenth-century Dutch combination of reed stop with 2, 1 1/3, and / or 1' flutes is used (e.g. in Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, Variation 3, Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, Variations 5 and 6, Psalm 116, Variation 3 - both the latter bearing the instruction 'auf 2 Clauiren' in the manuscript - and in Psalm 140, Variations 1 and 5). The variations on Mein junges Leben hat ein End are played entirely on flutes: Rugwerk Quintadeen in Variation 1, Rugwerk Holpijp 4' in Variation 2, full Bovenwerk flute chorus in Variation 5, and on the wide-scaled Bovenwerk Holpijp, dating from 1518, in the last variation.

Sweelinck's organs

Both the organs played by Sweelinck in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam were mature examples of the early classic Dutch organ. This type of organ, which emerged after c. 1500, brought a number of earlier developments to their peak. For instance, the old Blockwerk Principaal was divided into several registers, making it much more versatile. The other manual(s) were equipped with a wide variety of flutes and reeds. A pedal Trompet became a standard feature.
"Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was born in Deventer, a town in eastern Holland, in 1562. As the organist of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) he was required to give daily organ recitals and maintain the church’s large and small organs. He was a renowned organ expert and a sought-after teacher.

Sweelinck wrote around 254 vocal works (psalm settings, motets, chansons, madrigals) and around seventy keyboard works in various genres. While his vocal works were printed, his keyboard music was circulated in manuscripts, mainly by his pupils. We therefore owe Sweelinck’s pupils a debt of gratitude for preserving the music and giving us an insight into the composer’s multifaceted, late-Renaissance keyboard style, which demonstrates distinct influences from Italian, particularly Venetian, keyboard music (Andrea Gabrieli, Merulo) and from English music (Blitheman, Bull, Philips).

Sweelinck the keyboardist was an improviser, used to inventing different sorts of music according to learnt, formulaic patterns and procedures.What does the surviving music in the manuscript sources tell us about the player-improviser? An extant score, of course, only captures one particular ‘working out’ of an idea or group of ideas. Perhaps it is best to see these manuscripts as representing an idealised version of the works, documenting not a single ‘performance’ but an optimum treatment of themes, control of contrapuntal textures, construction of forms’ and application of florid passagework. In this recital, Robert Woolley selects works representative of all the genres in which we know Sweelinck ‘worked’: the free forms, (toccata, fantasia, echo fantasia) and the variations, on both sacred and secular melodies.


The highlight is perhaps the arresting final Fantasia with its indefatigable thematic flourishes, brilliantly played

An enjoyable and instructive issue, worthy of attentive listening.
BBC Music Magazine on CHAN 0559 (Gibbons)

…delightfully played by Robert Woolley… a fine addition to the catalogue.
Gramophone on CHAN 0588 (Tallis)

…I find Woolleys approach, with its focus more on the notes than the sound per se, as it were, considerably more rewarding,
International Record Review

This versatile three-manual instrument from Leidens Pieterskerk has a gorgeous palette of sounds that Robert Woolley exploits to the full, always choosing registrations that match both the spirit and style of the music… These require - and receive - a virtuoso display of dazzling finger-work..
The Telegraph

A beautifully refreshing CD, highly recommended.
Organists’ Review on CHAN 0559 (Gibbons)


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