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By ‘complete’, I assume ‘all known surviving works whose attribution is more-or-less secure’. None of Sweelinck’s keyboard works were published in the composer’s lifetime, and the many current editions are based on a plethora of manuscript copies of varying authenticity. Léon Berben has chosen four fine instruments: two original, and two historical reconstructions. Whereas the choice of organ or harpsichord was probably unimportant in Sweelinck’s time, Berben has recorded the fantasias, psalms, chorale-based works and some toccatas on the organs, and the majority of toccatas and secular pieces on the harpsichord.

The organs are the nearest we can expect to sound as Sweelinck heard. The three-manual Tangermünde organ (1624), built just three years after the composer’s death, is the largest extant instrument appropriate to this repertoire, complete with substantial 16ftpedal, whereas the single-manual Oosthuizen organ (1521) is wonderfully evocative of an earlier period. The Schumacher organ and the Keith Hill harpsichord sound thoroughly appropriate too. Meantone tuning is part of the success of this project, especially telling in pieces such as the Fantasia Chromatica, and the recording balance is clear but resonant throughout. Organ registrations had to be Berben’s own (there are no extant registration indications), and therefore are open to other interpretations.

Berben thoroughly adopts both the Italian and English influences on Sweelinck, and makes a policy of adding ornamentation as encour- aged by contemporaneous MSS and treatises. The audible result is a richly ornamented interpretation that sounds spontaneous and creative. All the current editions have, annoyingly, differing numbering systems, and – given the plethora of fantasias and toccatas – spotting the correct piece in the published volumes is quite a challenge. The ample 52-page booklet helps with SWWV numbers, but many listeners will need a concordance to identify which piece is which. However, this is a wonderful project, thoroughly recommended.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing