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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 19 (2013) No. 1

Published 2017

Jacob Van Eyck and the Others—Dutch Solo Repertoire for Recorder in the Golden Age. By Thiemo Wind. Translated by Jonathan Reeder. Muziekhistorische Monografieën 21. Utrecht: Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 2011. [ISBN 978-90-6375-219-4. 753 pp. €85.]

Reviewed by Claire Fontijn*

1. Introduction

2. Van Eyck’s World

3. Sources and Scholarship

4. Performance Practice and Critical Apparatus

5. Conclusions

1. Introduction

1.1 This magnificent book by Thiemo Wind focusses on the star of seventeenth-century Dutch recorder music: the blind musician Jacob Van Eyck (1589/90–1657). It is the definitive life-and-works study of Van Eyck, far-ranging in the context provided for his abundant compositions. The book derives its title from the debut novel by the renowned Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom, Philip and the Others (Philip en de anderen, 1955). The reference is timely, given that the first modern edition of Van Eyck’s music, by Gerrit Vellekoop, came out in the same decade: in 1957–58. But Van Eyck had not been forgotten before then; in 1848, F. C. Kist could state that “the variation of themes appears to have been Jonkheer Van Eyck’s particular pleasure and perhaps his forte” (150).

1.2 Wind’s comprehensive study of Jacob Van Eyck’s world is divided into The Recorder in the Golden Age (chapter 1), Jacob van Eyck (chapters 2–8), The Others (chapter 9–10), and Performance Practice (chapters 11–14). In these chapters he sumptuously covers Van Eyck’s life, oeuvre, colleagues, and influences, as well as iconography, performance practice, and the historical context for recorder playing. Van Eyck had an international perspective in his musical choices, representing Italy, France, Germany, and Spain, but curiously not the Netherlands; Wind writes that “only three [melodies] are probably Dutch” in origin (166). The Dutch, however, can boast of sheer numbers of players, for “from no other country have so many Baroque soprano recorders survived as from the Dutch Republic” (591).

2. Van Eyck’s World

2.1 Readers are treated to a series of beautiful, evocative paintings at the outset of the book, setting the stage for Van Eyck’s world. Dirck Hals’s depiction of a woman playing a recorder is particularly beautiful (117). She sits comfortably with her recorder, wearing a golden silk skirt with elegant folds, with an open book of music resting on the table next to her. In the first chapter of the book, Wind claims that the recorder was an instrument for men and women, young and old. The painting gallery shows the ubiquity of the instrument, containing works by such venerable Old Masters as Dirck Hals, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, and Hendrick Ter Bruggen, and by the less prominent Adriaen Brouwer, Johanna Vergouwen, Hendrick Cornelisz Van Vliet, Roemer Visscher, Dirck Santvoort, Evert Collier, Jan Vermeulen, Pieter Cornelisz Van Slingelandt, Hendrick Pot, Cornelis Dusart, and Jan Miense Molenaer. For reproducing these works of art, the glossy paper is ideal; it is only regrettable that the publisher chose to print the rest of the book in glossy paper as well, making it rather cumbersome and expensive.

2.2 What is truly astonishing about Van Eyck is that he could produce all this music as a blind man, although he was in good company with his musical forbears Francesco Landini (1325/35–97) and Conrad Paumann (1410–73), and his contemporary, Pieter De Vois (1580/81–1654). Perhaps it was Van Eyck’s disability that led him to specialize in the art of improvised variation; Wind posits that he was the inventor of linked variations (175) and writes that “contemporary sources praised the nimbleness of Van Eyck’s fingers and tongue” (600). This observation is borne out by Van Eyck’s abundant publications—Euterpe oft Speel-goddinne (Euterpe, or the Goddess of Instrumental Music, 1644, later subsumed as the first volume of Der Fluyten Lust-hof); the second volume of Der Fluyten Lust-hof (The Recorder’s Pleasure Garden), first edition (1646), Der Fluyten Lust-hof I, second edition (1649), Der Fluyten Lust-hof II, second edition (1654), Der Fluyten Lust-hof I, third edition (ca.1656)—and anthologies: Der Goden Fluit-hemel (The Gods’ Recorder-Heaven, 1644); the first volume of ’t Uitnemend Kabinet (The Excellent Cabinet), first edition (1646); ’t Uitnemend Kabinet II, first edition (1649), ’t Uitnemend Kabinet I, second edition (1654), and ’t Uitnemend Kabinet II, second edition (ca. 1656).

2.3 In his own time, Van Eyck was best known as the director of the Utrecht bell works, a carillonneur par excellence. He imitated his carillon technique in his recorder playing and compositions, particularly in passages with leaps of fifths, sixths, octaves, and tenths that “evoke images of carillonneurs’ hands” (256). In a hypothesis that Wind explores in Chapter 5, “Bells and recorder: The secret of the psalm variations,” he claims to have discovered a crucial link between the recorder and the carillon in Van Eyck’s musical production. He begins by identifying the problem for reconstructing both the recorder music and the carillon music: we have the music for the recorder but do not know what kind of instrument Van Eyck played, whereas the carillon instruments survive but the music does not. Wind’s discovery was that Van Eyck’s psalm variations in Der Fluyten Lust-hof work well on the carillon but they were not part of the “standard performance repertoire for the recorder” (229), suggesting that he wrote them for carillon but did not publish them as such.

2.4 The well-known diplomat, poet, and musician Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687) was Van Eyck’s distant cousin, and he played a significant role in the composer’s musical production. It was in 1644, during Huygens’s service as secretary to his Highness the Prince of Orange, that Van Eyck dedicated his Euterpe to Huygens (120–21). Using the pseudonym of “Prudenter,” Van Eyck wrote a dedicatory poem for Euterpe to his cousin, whom he described as a “champion of the Art of Music” (121). Huygens’s own nickname was “Constanter”—perhaps this was a wink acknowledging their relatedness that is otherwise downplayed in the dedication. The English translation of the poem by Peter J. Large deserves special praise for its craftsmanship in seventeenth-century style, rhymed in English. Van Eyck sent both his Euterpe and his Der Goden Fluit-hemel—the two volumes printed at the same time—to Huygens with an accompanying letter (122–23). Here he asked Huygens “please at some opportunity to examine the aforesaid work, in case some mistakes or errors may have been made either in the writing [dictation] or in printing” (123). At the end of the letter, reproduced on p. 122, Van Eyck signs as “Your Humble Cousin” (“UE Dienstw[illige] Neeff”).

2.5 Huygens was also a close friend and former keyboard pupil of Pieter De Vois (1580/81–1654), for whom he wrote a number of odes and elegies, naming him an “excellentissimus musicus” (521), and who was one of the “others” to whom Wind’s title alludes. An authority on the organ, violin, and carillon, De Vois had studied with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621). Like Van Eyck, De Vois was a blind musician (514). When Sweelinck died in 1621, De Vois was offered his teacher’s position as organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam; he did not accept, so the honor went to Sweelinck’s son Dirck. De Vois instead became an organist in The Hague. Whether he knew Van Eyck is an open question; Wind thinks instead that Van Eyck was well-acquainted with his son, Alewijn De Vois, who was organist at the Dom in Utrecht.

2.6 Along with De Vois, the “others” in Van Eyck’s life include Paulus Matthijsz, Jacob Van Noordt, and Johan Dicx. Paulus Matthijsz, the most prominent music publisher in the Netherlands, was apparently both a blessing and a curse to Van Eyck. While he did Van Eyck a service by publishing his works, Wind notes more than once that Matthijsz “appears to have meddled with musical matters beyond the correction of mistakes” (399). A kind of co-creation resulted. Perhaps Matthijsz took advantage of Van Eyck’s visual disability? Jacob Van Noordt (ca.1615–80) was an organist and carillonneur in Amsterdam (486). The last of the “others” is Johan Dicx (ca.1630–66), with whom Van Eyck lived and whom he named as his heir. Wind describes him as an “expert in the area of bells and carillons” (506).

3. Sources and Scholarship

3.1 Wind’s New Vellekoop Edition (NVE) of 1986–88 provided the background to his detailed study of Van Eyck’s work in this book. Wind mentions an intervening edition by Winfried Michel and Hermien Teske that came out just a few years prior to the NVE, but otherwise does not make use of it. Instead we are made amply aware of Wind’s thorough examination of archival and library materials that went into the present book as well as into the NVE, such as the discovery of a combined copy from 1656 of Der Fluyten Lust-hof and ’t Uitnemend Kabinet in Antwerp and another copy, from 1649, in Madrid.

3.2 Wind’s book owes a great deal to Ruth Van Baak Griffioen’s Jacob van Eyck’s ‘Der Fluyten Lust-hof’ (1644–c1655), which appeared in 1991 in the same series as Wind’s: the Music Historical Monographs Series from The Royal Society for Dutch Music History. He refers to this book throughout his own, and he describes their “fruitful collaboration” in the late 1980s (16).  He stresses that her focus was mostly on the themes, whereas his was on the variations. The two books complement each other nicely, but sometimes Wind is a bit too harsh of a critic of Van Baak Griffioen. For instance, Wind disagrees with Van Baak Griffioen’s conclusion that Van Eyck is “old-fashioned,” whereas Wind considers him to be a “child of his time.” Rather than leaving it at that, in chapter 4 Wind accuses Van Baak Griffioen of having “lost sight of the essential distinction” between variation as technique versus variation as form” (147–48).

3.3 Wind explores this distinction throughout chapter 4 and chapters 6–9. He discusses the techniques of diminution, augmentation, passage work, and the manuals of instruction of the time. He informs us that players in the Netherlands were well aware of the seconda prattica (again, in contradistinction to Van Baak Griffioen), for instance, they knew Monteverdi’s “Possente spirto” as a model of variation technique. Wind draws our attention not only to the consideration of variation as technique versus form, but also of music as object versus activity, all with the goal of an aesthetic art form on a monophonic instrument. He writes, “a better explanation for monophony is the consideration that this type of variation was more suited for an individual player. This explanation is supported by the close kinship between variation and improvisation, and by the evident element of showmanship” (151). To his mention of Mattheson as a critic of Rameau’s preference for harmony, Wind might have added the contemporary debate between Rousseau and Rameau that engendered the mid-eighteenth-century Querelle des Bouffons. This is not to say that Wind’s sweep of music historical sources isn’t impressive—it is indeed. For example, he notes the kinds of excesses in variations found in the work of such later composers as Vincent d’Indy, Joseph Gelinek, and Carl Czerny (149).

4. Performance Practice and Critical Apparatus

4.1 Wind grapples with performance practice issues by taking on both Robert Donington and Willi Apel. For example, to Donington’s notion that consistency be a guiding principle, Wind counters with the argument that “accidentals should not be added willy-nilly in this music” (422); inconsistency, he argues, is actually closer to the composer’s intention. Later on, Wind concludes that “music notation…is a system of codification the limitations of which afford the musician a degree of freedom. Delivery is all about exploring that freedom” (651). In other words, performers need to have an edition—exemplified by the NVE—that accurately communicates the original score, from which they can make their own decisions.

4.2 For some French airs de cour, one finds what Wind calls “amusingly bizarre bastardizations” of the French (158). For instance, one title that started out as “Ah! Que le Ciel” by François de Chancy was transmitted as “Ha kille Siele” in Euterpe (158). In Appendix B, Wind or Reeder translates “Schasamisie vous re veille” as “Mes amis je vous reveille,” but the translation should read “Chers amis, je vous réveille” (686).

4.3 Wind’s Appendices provide forty pages of useful material. He lays out the sources clearly, noting their locations, contents, and the concordances. He has one more chance to talk about even more “others” when he identifies the modern editions that are available. Appendix B offers English translations for the titles of the pieces in Der Fluyten Lust-hof. Appendix C contains three fingering charts by Matthijsz, Gerbrand Van Blanckenburgh, and Christiaan Huygens (the son of Constantijn and arguably the more famous of the two). The last appended items are texts and translations of odes, elegies, and epitaphs for Van Eyck and Van Noordt.

5. Conclusions

5.1 Jonathan Reeder’s impeccable translation from Dutch into English reads smoothly and really sounds like English. He obtains a natural narrative with his prose and ably translates many of the poems from Old Dutch. Wind calls Reeder “the most assiduous translator imaginable” (18). For some of the poetry, especially the “Odes, elegies and epitaphs” in Appendix D, Wind employed Peter J. Large and Diane Webb, who translated the poems with rhyming lines into Old English, no small feat. Nevertheless, a few words remain mysteries, including the “stadstrompers” (82) and the “trompers” (91)—town trumpeters?—and, in Appendix A, “vertoninge” (673–74). In one instance, the musical score printed “Ghij” (formal for You) but in the discussion was replaced by “Hij” (He) because the decorated capital “G”—separated at the outset from the rest of the word, which was printed with a capital “H”—was overlooked (437).

5.2 Ideally, players will want a copy of Van Eyck’s scores on hand when reading this book, for not all of the in-depth analyses are supplied with musical examples. For instance, Wind’s discussion of octave displacement as an expansion technique in “Rosemond die lagh gedoocken” can hardly be understood without the music (204). The examples that are provided, however—all 362 of them!—while not comprehensive, are excellent and most impressive as to their accuracy and their ability to illustrate a point. One of the most intricate is the example that finds a novel way to show retrograde motion in augmentation in Van Eyck’s Fantasia & Echo (360). In general, Wind’s book is best used as a reference work, rather than read from cover to cover.

5.3 Thiemo Wind is to be congratulated for his great accomplishment with this book. Indeed, it has been heartily endorsed internationally by such luminaries as the late Frans Brüggen and David Lasocki. It is sure to be the definitive work on Jacob van Eyck for many years to come.


* Claire Fontijn (cfontijn@wellesley.edu) is Phyllis Henderson Carey Professor of Music at Wellesley College, where she teaches courses on early music, early music performance, Hildegard of Bingen, and music, gender, and sexuality. Her books include Desperate Measures: The Life and Music of Antonia Padoani Bembo (2006/pbk. 2013), Fiori Musicali–Liber amicorum Alexander Silbiger (2010), and The Vision of Music in Saint Hildegard’s Scivias.

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