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The Art of Variation - Sweelinck: Secular Cycles

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The leading Dutch label releases a disc of music by the greatest Dutch master, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Fabio Antonio Falcone presents the well known sets of variations on secular songs and dances. A specialist in 16th-century keyboard repertoire, Falcone revives these celebrated masterpieces, highlighting the wealth of their contrasting shades in a recording rich in contrasting colours, enhanced by the use of the famous Johannes Ruckers harpsichord (1632/1745) preserved at the Musee d'art et d'histoire in Neuchatel.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, although considered an isolated phenomenon, transformed Amsterdam into the centre of interest for keyboard music. Today, Sweelinck is considered not only one of the most famous organists, but also one of the leading composers of his time and the last great master of Dutch and Flemish polyphony. His work is not conceivable without Venetian and, most importantly, English models. Even though he was not widely travelled, Sweelinck remained amazingly well informed throughout his life.

Despite his fame and importance, not a single work for keyboard instruments survives in an autograph source, not even in a copy authorised by the composer. His keyboard works have survived in some thirty scattered and not always reliable manuscripts. This body of work is far from complete, and the copies mostly date from after the composer's death. It is thanks to Sweelinck's pedagogical activity and his numerous students, that the compositions have survived at all.

Among Sweelinck's pieces for keyboard instruments, the variations cycles form a significant group. They include variations on chorale melodies, melodies from the Genevan Psalter, Lutheran songs, as well as on secular models. The latter, however, are undoubtedly the most delightful pieces Sweelinck ever composed, for they reveal the composer's lighter, sometimes humorous side. It seems that Sweelinck composed most of the keyboard works in the last two decades of his life. This is evidenced by a mature style, compositional perfection, and unity.

"Throughout, the playing is poised, gracious and rhetorically phrased." - BBC Music Magazine, Performance 4 Stars, Recording 5 Stars


  1. Name
  2. Ballo del Granduca, SwVW 319
  3. Pavana Philippi, SwVW 329
  4. Mein junges Leben hat ein Endt, SwVW 324
  5. Unter der Linden grune, SwVW 325
  6. Ich fuhr mich uber Rheine, SwVW 322
  7. Pavana Hispanica, SwVW 327
  8. Soll es sein, SwVW 330
  9. Von der Fortuna werd ich getrieben, SwVW 320
  10. Esce mars, SwVW 321
  11. Paduana Lachrymae, SwVW 328
  12. Malle Sijmen, SwVW 323
  13. Allemande Gratie, SwVW 318
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