Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck Mon Dieu,
J'ay en toy esperance (from Psalm 7)
The Netherlands composer Sweelinck was celebrated
throughout northern Europe for his keyboard playing and improvisation. He was much
esteemed toccatas and sets of variations - and a large collection of vocal compositions.
As the last great representative of the 'golden age' of Netherlands
polyphonists, Sweelinck is considered not only to have been one of the most prolific and
versatile musicians of the age, but also one of the leading choral composers of the late
Interestingly, of Sweelinck's surviving and vocal
pieces, none is set in his native tongue: his 153 psalms -settings are set in French. The
surviving vocal works constitute some 250 pieces and cover a wide range of styles, genres
and traditions, revealing remarkable inventiveness and technical fluency.
Sweelinck's settings of the psalms were published in
four volumes between 1604 and 1621. The Genevan Psalter (1562) is the source of the tunes
and texts on which the settings are based, and while some psalms are presented in their
entirety, the more extended paraphrases comprise only the initial stanza of stanzas. His
setting of Psalm 7 is highly contrapuntal; only a few points of imitation are used but are
treated in many different ways in a variety of techniques. Sweelinck's settings of
these well-known psalm-tunes must have seemed refreshing and enjoyable to a public more
accustomed to hearing them performed in a rather more routine way at church services.