Five Centuries of Flemish Harpsichord Music

Jan Devlieger, Phaedra 89

Deze afbeelding heeft een leeg alt-attribuut; de bestandsnaam is 1200x1190-1024x1015.jpg

Matti Poels, MUSIC FRAMES: ‘In this prestigious project Devlieger plays on various harpsichords compositions written by Flemish composers who lived between 1450 and 1950’


‘Five Centuries of Flemish Harpsichord Music’ is name of the new CD of the Flemish harpsichordist Jan Devlieger (in four duets with Sandra Van der Gucht). In this prestigious project Devlieger plays on various harpsichords compositions written by Flemish composers who lived between 1450 and 1950.
The harpsichord is an outstanding Baroque Instrument (late 16th/half 18th century). The instrument is the basis for many concerts and sonatas and creates with the viola da gamba the basso continuo (BC). An art of accompany technique based on the ‘figured bass‘ (written above the base line), which corresponded to chords. On the harpsichord you only can play terraced dynamics (hard or soft) and therefore no transitional dynamics (slowly from soft to loud and vice versa). So the instrument becomes increasingly obsolete after 1750 and only returns to contemporary compositions in the 20th century. The Flemish Baroque music is hardly heard nowadays and the Ghent harpsichordist Jan Devlieger wants to change that. Antwerp was (besides Italy) the place where a few important harpsichord builders lived and the keyboard was developed further in the 17th century.
The album ‘Five Centuries of Flemish Harpsichord Music’ by Jan Devlieger opens with an adaptation of the four-part song ‘La Morra’ for harpsichord written by the BelgianHeinrich Isaac. A composer who worked in Italy and Austria and is best known for his breathtaking song ‘Innsbruck, Ich muss dich lassen‘. Around 1500 he was with Josquin des Prez (Josken van der Weiden), a leading composer. Magnificent are some anonymous compositions including ‘Och Liefste Lief‘ (‘Oh Dearest Love’) from the Kempen manuscripts and songbooks, which shine in simplicity. In Baroque tradition we hear the ‘Suite in D minor‘ and ‘Suite in G‘. Robust compositions which sound familiar to the work of the Italian composer Scarlatti and the French composers Couperin and Rameau. Virtuoso, with many ornaments and energetic dynamic melodies. The music is, despite of it’s firm and powerful exposure, clear and accessible played by Jan Devlieger, who is also an organist, a recorder player and singer. He plays uncluttered and self-confidend. Also the double-harpsichord concerto (with Sandra Van der Gucht) of the Brussels composer François Krafft is striking and eloquence. These four minuets were especially arranged for this CD for two harpsichords. Compositions that have emerged from improvisation, clear music in a dancing 3-beat with a frolicking flavour. The composer Mathias van der Gheyn from Leuven wrote many works for the harpsichord but also composed for the carillon. If you listening to ‘Prelude & Gigue in G minor‘ and think about the carillon you hear it inbetween the notes. The final piece ‘Halt im Gedächtnis’ (homage to JS Bach) is written by the Mechelen composer Raymond Schroyens (1933) and emits an exciting and new harpsichord sound. After five centuries of harpsichord music it’s clear that this wonderful instrument has a bright future ahead!