Musical rhetoric in Sweelinck’s keyboard variations on sacred melodies (I) by Julia Dokter

by Julia Dokter | Het ORGEL | Year 108 | (2012) | Issue 5


Julia Dokter Musical rhetoric in Sweelinck’s keyboard variations on sacred melodies (I)
Het ORGEL 108 (2012), nr. 5, 14-23 [summary]

Our knowledge of the music of Jan Pietersz. Sweelinck, whose 450th birthday is celebrated this year, has been augmented in recent years, mostly through culture-historical studies and source studies. But an analytical study that directly influences our evaluation of the sound of Sweelinck’s music has not been made. This two-part article makes a start at filling this gap by analyzing Sweelinck’s sacred variations for keyboard, providing new insights into the performance practice of these works. The keyboard variation sets by Sweelinck on sacred melodies are studied in relation to the texts by placing the texts next to the cantus firmi. In these keyboard variations we encounter numerous musical figures. By using the music rhetorical figures that were catalogued by theoreticians and musicians from Sweelinck’s time, as well as earlier and later, this article presents a method by which the semantic meaning behind these musical figures can be understood. A basic idea is formulated which makes it possible to discover the music rhetorical figures in Sweelinck’s sacred variations. Then a number of detailed analyses of variation sets is given based on this idea.
The first part of this article treats variation sets that use the complete text. The examples discussed are the sets ‘Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr’ and ‘Ich ruf zu dir’.