Various Artists

Sweelinck: The Complete Keyboard Works

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This set of nine discs of late Renaissance/early Baroque keyboard music will probably be too much for most casual listeners, but it does provide a thorough look at the music of Sweelinck for those who are serious about music of the period or the predecessors of Bach. The pieces are grouped by performer and instrument, but are mixed otherwise so that the three main forms Sweelinck used -- the toccata, the fantasia, and variations -- are not grouped together by form or key, making for a good assortment of pieces on each of the nine discs. Sweelinck's music tends to be meditative and subdued in mood, so that it can be mesmerizing, but a closer listening reveals the improvisitory sound that belies his use of fugue, and the precise and separate voices. Even in the more contrapuntally complex fantasias, there is a sense of spontenaity and freedom in the music. The variations on popular songs, such as Pavana Lachrymae and Onder een Linde groen, and on the Geneva Psalms tend to be more ear-catching. In these Sweelinck plays with the themes, moving them from voice to voice and creating new themes from them, as well as using some elements of fugue. The set comes with a book with excellent notes on Sweelinck, the music, and the instruments used in the recordings. It also includes a complete catalog of Sweelinck's keyboard works, works attributed to Sweelinck, and a few anonymous contemporary works, all also recorded here. The accomplished performers include organists Leo van Doeselaar and Péter van Dijk, and harpsichordist Bob van Asperen. This is sure to be a valuable resource for those wanting a deeper historical perspective of the period, the instruments, or Sweelinck himself.

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