400 years since his death – the SWEELINCK FESTIVAL in Amsterdam

A festival commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of the greatest Dutch composer.

The greatest composer ever born in the Netherlands: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) lived in Amsterdam. The Sweelinck Festival will commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death by organizing a week full of concerts, workshops, and other activities between 16th and 24th October, to take place at several Amsterdam locations. The Sweelinck Festival will remind listeners in an open and accessible way how a musician who lived four centuries ago can still hold an important place on the illustrious list of Dutch composers. Performers will include such international musicians and ensembles as the Swiss choir Lamaraviglia, Doulce Mémoire with Denis Raisin Dadre, Kathryn Cok, and the Caecilia-Concert.

Sweelinck Festival 2021

According to artistic leader Simon Groot, “Vocal music is a marriage between two art forms: literature and music. Nowhere is that marriage as harmonious as in the music of Sweelinck. The Sweelinck Festival unites the past and the present. Sweelinck’s iconic music is at the heart of the festival, which will offer new perspectives—for visitors who would like to participate by singing and making music. But also for guests who prefer to immerse themselves in Sweelinck’s works.”

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: the Amsterdam Orpheus

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, born in 1562 in the eastern Dutch city of Deventer, moved to Amsterdam at a young age. Sweelinck was a prominent citizen of Amsterdam: he served as the municipal organist in the Oude Kerk (Old Church) for more than forty years, and he led the Amsterdam Collegium Musicum. His legacy includes a musical oeuvre of poignant beauty worthy of international recognition. No wonder his contemporaries called him the “Amsterdam Orpheus,” referring to the mythological Greek musician and poet.

Sweelinck’s works: improvisations, keyboard music, and pieces for vocal ensemble

Much of the music Sweelinck played started out as improvisations. The keyboard music Sweelinck notated sometimes evolved from improvisations, or was used as a preliminary sketch, or written down for his pupils as part of their studies. In addition to compositions for organ and harpsichord, Sweelinck wrote more than 250 works for vocal ensemble.

Without Sweelinck, there would have been no Bach 

From a musical point of view, Sweelinck is the forerunner of Johann Sebastian Bach. He had a direct link with Bach via his students. Sweelinck was a well-respected musician with international appeal, and students came from far and wide to study with him in Amsterdam. Those students, in turn, often grew to become important musicians in their own right, such as the German composers Praetorius and Scheidemann, thus forging a direct link between Sweelinck and Bach.

About the Sweelinck Festival

Sweelinck’s music is still very much alive. That is why, from 16 to 24 October, the Sweelinck Festival will pay tribute to Sweelinck’s music. The festival will present a varied program at several Amsterdam venues, including Muziekgebouw, the Rijksmuseum, and the Amsterdam City Archives in De Bazel. International musicians and ensembles performing at the festival will include the Swiss choir Lamaraviglia, Doulce Mémoire with Denis Raisin Dadre, Kathryn Cok, and the Caecilia-Concert. The Sweelinck Festival also has an umbrella function. Dutch musicians participating in the festival will include Bob van Asperen, Pieter Dirksen, and the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam. During this Sweelinck year, the festival is also receptive to hearing about other Dutch initiatives relating to Sweelinck’s music.   October 2021