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The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, Vol. 3: Peter Philips, J.P. Sweelinck / Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord

Notes & Reviews:

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is one of the most extraordinary manuscripts of Elizabethan and Jacobean music in existence, and is currently held at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Its exact origins are disputed, but it was compiled at some point in the late 16th century and contains an astonishing 300 pieces for virginal, a small harpsichord of the time. The historical importance of the book is enormous, not least for the range and variety of its pieces. They are also, though, a joy for any modern listener eager to be transported back to one of the most exciting periods of English history. This volume is particularly interesting for being the only one to include a non-English composer: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, a Dutch organist, who was well known across Europe. Sweelinck met the other composer featured in this volume, Peter Philips, in 1593 in Amsterdam, when Philips made a special trip to see the renowned organist perform. The two composers are remarkable for their superb mastery of the variation form, expertly building and releasing tension in the melodic lines and using the uncertain tonality of the time to play around with the harmonic structures. They also both made use of intabulations of vocal music, taking popular madrigals and vocal motets of the time and adding new embellishments, sometimes obscuring the original melody with the elaborate ornamentation. Listeners will appreciate the special care and attention that has gone into producing this release: harpsichordist Pieter-Jan Belder is currently in the process of recording all the pieces of this unique book, and this is the third volume to be released on the Brilliant Classics label. A renowned harpsichordist, clavichord player and fortepianist, Belder specialises in performance on historical instruments, and has carefully selected two period harpsichords for this recording to create the most authentic sound possible. The effect is certainly a special one: the recording dazzles with a well-chosen selection of these complex yet remarkably light pieces, a snapshot of the 16th century that represents the very best of English harpsichord music. Other information: * History of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and its origins * Detailed notes on the selected pieces * Notes on the artist * Descriptions of the period harpsichords used * Recorded in 2013 in the Chapel of the Capuchin Monastery, Velp, The Netherlands

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
The program has a lot of historical interest because it contains several intabulations (keyboard adaptations of works like Caccini's 'Amarilli mia Bella' as well as pieces by Orlando di Lasso and Alessandro Striggio). Belder is particularly fine in the two famous pairs of Philips's Pavans and Galliards (subtitled 'Dolorosa' and 'Pagget'); phrases linger when they should. He can also create exciting performances of the longer fantasias, partly by respecting their impressive tonal architecture. He plays two instruments (a Ruckers copy by Boogaard and an Italian copy by Bom); both are recorded perfectly and the post-production mastering is superb.


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