'Around Jacob van Eyck'
Jacob van Eyck is known only from Der Fluyten Lust-hof, two volumes containing some 140 unaccompanied variation-sets for soprano recorder, published at Amsterdam starting in the mid-1640s. While the pieces have been successfully recorded unaccompanied – many times – both these CDs flesh out the music: most of Van Eyck’s variations were based on extremely popular tunes known throughout Europe and many other versions of them exist.
‘Around Jacob van Eyck’ (a carefully chosen title, because there is fairly little here taken directly from Van Eyck) is the debut CD of the Ardalus Ensemble from Belgium, led by their recorder player Karen Ketels, amply supported by percussionist and keyboard player Jan Devlieger, lutenist Nathalie Fransen, violist Rebecca Lefèvre and violinist Stefaan Smagghe. They take a variety of approaches: percussion, improvised bass-lines played on a viol, a bit of folk-fiddle and so on. In a few cases they introduce the original songs, sung with beautiful precision by the soprano Sarah Adams.
‘Pleasure Garden’ is unashamedly to promote the recorder virtuosity of the Brazilian player Luis Beduschi. Although the Dutch soprano Johannette Zomer gets equal billing, she is always far less prominently recorded, as indeed are the backing group of five viols, a virginal and a harp. Beduschi’s playing is indeed astonishingly impressive, particularly in his ability to play unbelievably fast without any sense of struggle or unclarity.
But he is far more systematic in each approach. Essentially every piece is presented in the same way: five-voice accompaniment derived from other sources (many of them English); and a text taken from one of the many Dutch-language songbooks of the 17th century. If it seems bizarre to be hearing Dowland and other English songs in Dutch – with superimposed recorder variations – the approach is at least original and consistent.