400 years sweelinck (1621-2021)

Fall 2021

October 16th  marks the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest composers the Netherlands has ever known: Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621). This autumn, Amsterdam will therefore take note of Sweelinck’s life and work, both at the Oude Kerk and in many other places in the city. Read on to find out more about some of these activities!

During his lifetime, Sweelinck was the Oude Kerk’s organist and the pivot of the Amsterdam music scene. Young organists from all over Europe came to Amsterdam to learn from him and he exerted a great influence on the music of his contemporaries and of composers that came after him. Sweelinck played the organ of the Oude Kerk almost every day, thereby becoming one of the first to hold concerts that were open to the public. Whereas previously, music was played in the street, behind the closed doors of the court or during church services, people could now just walk into the Oude Kerk and enjoy a concert every day. Sweelinck’s work and the concert’s he gave are an important starting point for the music programme in the Oude Kerk to this day.

music programme oude kerk
This autumn, our music programme centres on Sweelinck’s music and concert practice. In the Monuments series, on 15 October, early music pioneer Ton Koopman will be playing music by Sweelinck and contemporaries on the transept organ (tuned in sixteenth-century meantone temperament). In the Silence series, on 5 November, a new music collective will perform the premiere of arrangements of Sweelinck’s psalms in a setting with bass clarinet, cello, violin, viola, voice and electronics. This season’s second edition of Monuments, on 11 December, will feature a programme performed on the large Vater-Müller organ: the young Parisian organist Thomas Ospital will fuse the music of Bach and Sweelinck as well as play improvisations in the Sweelinck tradition.

susan philipsz
On 26 November the Oude Kerk will present the first Dutch solo exhibition of Scottish artist Susan Philipsz (Glasgow, 1965). In her work, Philipsz focuses on the rearrangement and interpretation of existing compositions that are connected to the history and stories of a place. Her sound installation in the Oude Kerk takes Sweelinck’s music as a point of departure: Philipsz will perform compositions by Sweelinck that have been arranged for her own voice. To read more about the installation, please click here.

Every Sunday morning and evening, the Oude Kerk functions as a house of worship. Music is an important part of the services of the congregation. Every other week, the morning services are musically accompanied by the Sweelinck Cantorij. On Sunday 17 October, they will pay special attention to Sweelinck’s music in the context of the liturgy. During the church service (11 a.m.) and evening prayer (6:30 p.m.), you can enjoy arrangements of Sweelinck’s psalms and organ works. For more information, please visit the website of the Oudekerk congregation, Oudekerkgemeente.

sweelinck festival
From 16 to 24 October, Sweelinck will be honoured with a festival named after him. His music will be performed on various stages across the city and the festival also includes workshops and other activities. For dates and times, please visit the Sweelinck Festival website.

From 17 September to 9 January 2022, the exhibition Sweelinck, Stadsmusicus van Amsterdam, 1621-2021 will be on show at the Stadsarchief Amsterdam. Rare documents from the city archives recount Sweelinck’s life and work in the Amsterdam of 400 years ago, and four of the Sweelinck Festival concerts will take place in the Stadsarchief.