A young Italian virtuoso breathes new life into the ornate fantasies of a Dutch Baroque master.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) enjoyed a great reputation in his time that spread throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia. He attracted pupils from afar, Heinrich Scheidemann, Jacob Praetorius and Samuel Scheidt being the most famous. Sweelinck's influence can, therefore, be said to have reached Buxtehude and Bach through his teaching and compositions: He was not only the founder of the true fugue but a splendid player and teacher whose profound influence on northern European keyboard music particularly lasted long after his death.
Sweelinck's extant keyboard outputcomprises some 70 pieces, of which 14 are represented here in an original sequence of alternating toccatas, fantasias and variation sets. The precise instrument for which each of the pieces was written cannot always be determined with certainty. While the song variations suit either harpsichord or virginal, the fantasias and toccatas may well have been played on whatever keyboard instrument was to hand, including the organ.
Especially in his Variation pieces on popular songs such as ‘More Palatino’ and ‘Onder een linde groen’. Sweelinck shows himself as one of the supreme masters of the form. He retains the structure of his themes throughout each set, but his mastery and inventiveness is shown in the shaping of the inner structures of each variation. The complexity of polyphony can change overthe course of one single variation, and the sets as a whole make use of the whole spectrum of compositional structures, from the most plain to the most elaborate.
The Italian pianist Andrea Vivanet takes a historically informed approach to Sweelinck’s music on the piano. He incorporates graceful ornamentation, and stylistic features necessitated by the limits of early keyboards, but he also takes full advantage of the expressive and coloristic capabilities of the modern instrument. His previous recordings have displayed a refined and imaginative approach to 20th-century composers such as Ravel and Shostakovich, but Vivanet brings a welcome precision of touch to Sweelinck that makes him sound at home on the piano.
- Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the most influential composers of the Late-Renaissance and Early-Baroque. He was organist of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam for 44 years. His influence was enormous, he attracted composers from many European countries to Amsterdam to learn his art. Even the great Johann Sebastian Bach acknowledged his superior craftsmanship.
- Sweelinck’s keyboard music is divided into 4 groups: Fantasias, Toccatas, Chorale variations (sacred works), Variations on Dances (secular works). Traditionally Dances were performed on the harpsichord, Chorale Variations on the organ. Fantasias, Toccatas, Fugues and Ricercari had only a non-specific “keyboard” destination.
- This new recording features a fine selection of Sweelinck’s keyboard works, played on the modern piano, a justifiable practice, as Sweelinck himself in many cases did not specify the instrument for his compositions. As is often the case when transcribing good music for another instrument: the strength and beauty of the music stays intact, and a new light shines on these timeless masterpieces.
- After studying in his home town of Cagliari Andrea Vivanet went to Hungary to study with Balázs Szokolay and István Lantos at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest where he obtained the Master Degree with honors in piano performance. During this period he also attended classes with Miklós Perényi, András Keller, Gábor Csalog and Ferenc Rados. He took part in masterclasses with Franco Rossi, Mikhail Voskresenky and Paul Badura Skoda.