Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

Mein junges Leben hat ein End, variations for keyboard, SwWV 324

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    Citizens of the Dutch city and guests alike might flock to the Oude Kerk in the heart of town: the "Orpheus of Amsterdam," Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, was giving his daily public concert on the church organ. Since Amsterdam's adoption of the Reformed faith in 1578, the organ could not be tolerated playing during a worship service, but the church organist could ply his formidable talents just before or after a service. Students came from across Europe as well, to learn of Sweelinck the principals of keyboard playing, which at the time meant how to improvise fantasia-like preludes or how to improvise upon a given melody. Though the students came presumably to learn improvisation on sacred tunes, the public became accustomed to hearing the master ornament, as well their favorite secular melodies. Sweelinck's set of keyboard variations on the lied "Mein junges Leben hat ein End" is preserved for posterity in a single manuscript copy and may represent the kind of public improvisation that made him famous.

    The German song upon which he wrote this set of six variations is a stylized lament in minor mode, and Sweelinck milks it for all its harmonic riches from the outset. His setting of the first variation, in a fairly straightforward four-voiced style, bristles with harmonic cross-relations, small syncopations, and descending musical lines. The second follows a similar harmonic pattern, but adds richer, more complex countermelodies. The third and fourth are more "instrumental" in character, the first a toccata-like version encrusted with running passages in several rhythms and the other an exploration of even more diverse rhythmic elaborations and figurations. The fifth continues Sweelinck's romp through the gamut of keyboard figurations, alternating passages of parallel notes and arpeggiations. Finally, the sixth variation distills a few of the previous techniques and places them in inner voices such that new contrapuntal relationships between the soprano melody and the bass -- a bass line first strongly rising through the entire octave, then giving inverted imitations of a second theme, and the superimpositions of different melodies -- may be more evident.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95310BR
    2016 Nimbus NI 5939
    2016 Linn / Linn Records CKD 570
    2015 Glossa GCD 922410
    2013 Loft Recordings LRCD 1123
    2013 Longhorn LHM 2012002
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 846
    2012 Sony Classical 88697929692
    2012 Globe GLO 5253
    2011 L'Oiseau-Lyre 440 207-2OM
    2011 EtCetera Records KTC1426
    2011 Newton Classics 8802044
    2011 Audite 20012
    2010 Carpe Diem / Carpe Diem 16281
    2010 EtCetera Records KTC1320
    2010 EtCetera Records 1407
    2009 Chandos 0758
    2009 CPO 777344
    2009 Naxos 570894
    2008 Phoenix Edition 134PHOENIX
    2008 Loft Recordings / Loft Recordings 1106
    2008 Ars Produktion 38432
    2007 Bridge 9216
    EtCetera Records 1353
    2006 Analekta 8216
    2006 Divine Art 24101
    2006 Aeolus Music 10201
    2005 Naxos 8 558160/1
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 MDG 3411256
    2005 NM Classics 92119
    2005 Hungaroton 32382
    2003 Arbiter ARBITER135
    2003 Skarbo 1004
    2003 Hyperion 67421/2
    2003 Chandos 701
    2003 NM Classics 92119
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575683
    2002 Metronome 1057
    2001 Testament 1202
    2001 Arkay Records 6127
    2000 Dulcian CD D006
    2000 Aca Digital 20067
    2000 Lindenberg 94
    1998 Columbia River Entertainment Group 1170
    1996 Globe 6035
    1995 K 617 7048
    1995 Naxos 550904
    1994 NM Classics 92015
    1994 Dorian / Dorian Recordings 90195
    1993 Priory Records 345
    Arkay Records 6129
    Northwest 121278
    Koch Schwann 1801
    Arkay Records 6127
    Supraphon 3341
    New Classic Colours 8008