The 'Cantiones Sacrae' of Sweelinck -
with ROBERT ANDERSON
'The Clare College Choir under Timothy Brown has both the intensity and agility to encompass the varied moods of the music.'
Sweelinck spent his working life in Amsterdam and seldom left the city;
indeed he was central in a family that served the Oude Kerk (Old Church)
for almost ninety years. Sweelinck succeeded his father as organist there
certainly by 1580, while still in his teens, and his son took over in 1621.
When Charles Burney visited the church a hundred and fifty years later,
he commented on the organ: 'the touch of this instrument is the heaviest
that I ever felt, each key requiring almost a two pound weight to put it
down'. During Sweelinck's lifetime, Amsterdam played its political and religious
cards with skill. It revolted from Spain only in 1578, later than other
Dutch cities. Officially Calvinist, it practised an enlightened religious
toleration that also aided its prosperity. The rival Antwerp was in Spanish
hands, so that mercantile refugees fled to Amsterdam and allowed it to play
a leading part in such ventures as the foundation of the Dutch East India
Company in March 1602.
Copyright © 12 June 2002
Robert Anderson, London, UK