It’s clear that a great deal of care has gone into this release from Hyperion, with relevant booklet notes and biographies to accompany this extraordinary music. And it is extraordinary – confirmed by one listen to the opening of the Fantasia Chromatica.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, known as the Orpheus of Amsterdam, was a well known figure in the Netherlands in the late 16th Century. His works for keyboard are perhaps his richest legacy, for they give the listener a chance to enjoy a vivid musical language.
Once the ear has adjusted to the rather odd tuning of the organ it’s possible to appreciate the constant shifts between major and minor keys.Sweelinck employs a clever syncopated rhythms – a particularly imaginative use of echo in the obviously titled Echo Fantasia becomes more of an improvisation.
Christopher Herrick plays these pieces with plenty of verve, securing some piercing tones from the Swedish instrument. The flourish of bell sounds that brings the Pavana Philippi to an extravagant close gives some indication of his free rein with the music, giving it plenty of room to breathe.
If you’ve enjoyed 1970s rock, particularly of the more, um, progressive variety you’ll be in an ideal position to appreciate the language of this interesting composer. With a rival version due soon performed by Robert Woolley on Chandos, it would seem Sweelinck’s profile is about to rise.