Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621)

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck assumed one of the most prestigious organists' posts in Holland at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam at the age of 15, and kept this post until his death.

On account of Holland's adoption of Calvinism instead of Catholicism, Sweelinck only had a limited amount of liturgical duties to attend to as an organist. From 1578 on, the post of municipal organist offered him an artistic freedom that was unusual for the time. His fame as an organist spread through all of northern Europe, not least through his work as a teacher. Not only young organists from foreign countries flocked to Amsterdam to study the organ with him, but also distinguished personalities like Jacob Praetorius and Samuel Scheidt.

Sweelinck wrote many vocal works before he decided to concentrate on keyboard music at the age of 40. His vocal works, which were broadly diffused through printed editions, stand out for their breathtakingly virtuoso polyphony.

Sweelinck's keyboard music, in its turn, played an important role in the early 17th century: it is a kind of mirror of European music of this time, unique in its multifariousness and in its wealth of inventive formal models, themes and figurations. Sweelinck created a new kind of instrumental polyphony by transposing the contrapuntal refinement of his vocal works to the keyboard. Also quite new were repeated structures in the figurations. Through this means, it was no longer possible to strictly separate from each other forms such as the toccata, the Lied and the variation.

Pieter Dirksen and Harald Vogel laid down an Urtext Complete Edition of the works for keyboard instrument for Breitkopf & Härtel. Performers will appreciate the transposition into modern-day notation and the efforts to remain faithful to the sources as much as possible.