One of the most intriguing musical sources from the late Renaissance is Jacob van Eyck's Der Fluyten Lust-hof (The Recorder's Pleasure Garden). This the largest collection of music for solo wind instrument presents a selection of variations based on themes as diverse as Calvinist psalms, dances, the hits of the day and dirty songs. For centuries, this kind of music belonged to the repertoire of an instrument of ancient origin which was played at the courts, in the streets, churches, brothels and pubs: the recorder.
For present-day recorder players, the work is as unique as it was in the 17th century; it holds a treasure of music which helped establish the popularity of the recorder in the 20th century. For the late renaissance musician in the Netherlands, on the other hand, it provided a charming, entertaining mixture of secular and sacred music in times of political unrest and religious conflicts. Despite the 80 years' war with Spain, amongst others, Der Fluyten Lust-hof is full of life, hope, joy and beauty. The work gives us a rare insight into the musical world of the late renaissance and the early baroque with its intricate and abundant use of variation techniques.
The composer was a blind nobleman, scientist and bell player: Jacob van Eyck(1589-1657). He used to improvise in the garden adjacent to the Sint Janskerk in Utrecht, entertaining by-passers and romancing young couples alike. Someone then must have listened his way through and transcribed what corresponds to almost ten hours of music, very much the way many a jazz musician still work today. The apparent popularity of van Eyck's music caused his publisher Paul Matthysz to edit several collections in van Eyck's lifetime. One can only imagine the troublesome procedures foregoing a publication of this kind, as the author couldn't write himself. Der Fluyten Lust-hof is an outstanding proof of a craft which is today a sadly neglected art form. To improvise was the true core of all music long before the invention of musical notation.
(Prelude, in Latin / Dutch). Renaissance instrumentalists tuned and warmed up by improvising preludes, and printed music collections often opened with such pieces. No doubt Van Eyck often announced his presence in the Utrecht Janskerkhof with pieces such as this one which opens the Lust-hof: a good introduction in miniature to the flourishes, scales, and echoes to come.
The echo-fantasia was a genre nurtured especially by the Dutch, usually for organ. Van Eyck's slow, mode-defining opening is typical; the echoes arise once the piece is established. The Lust-hof's only dynamic markings are found here, accentuating the echo effect caused naturally by the octave leaps in the recorder's modest range.
(Swift Messenger of Love). The source of this tune is obscure, but it was widely known in the Netherlands beginning in the 1630s with a pastoral text of a shepherd bewailing his lost-love cause to Cupid. In the Lust-hof however, the tune has been altered so that the original text is no longer singable.
[a psalm of praise: Lord I will praise you everywhere]. It is difficult to realize how important the Genevan psalms were in the Calvinist Netherlands; an analogy might be the Lutheran chorales, whose impact is clear in the works of Bach. But Calvin was stricter than Luther about texts ("one can sing nothing worthy of God save what one has received from Him") and also insisted that music for God must have "the gravity and majesty that befits its subject." So in the Calvinist tradition (the 1562 Genevan Psalter, translated into Dutch by Petrus Dathenus, 1566) all the weight was funneled into just 125 tunes setting only the 150 psalms and a few other Biblical texts (the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and a few New Testament canticles, including the Magnificat).
Dathenus' Dutch-Genevan Psalter was a publishing phenomenon, going throughover 300 editions by 1700. Some churches sang through the whole Psalter twice each year; countless cultural references attest to the Dutch love for and knowledge of the Calvinist psalms. Carillonneur's contracts specified frequent psalm rotations on city bells. The psalms had been sung unaccompanied for over a century when, during Van Eyck's time, organ harmonies began to be accepted in major cities. Outside of church, the psalms were household property, a national heritage, a religious identity. The psalms Van Eyck chose to set---with the interesting exception of the ones which close Parts I & II of the Lust-hof---are among the very best known in the Dutch-Genevan tradition.
Nothing is known about the origins of this song.
(Alas, murderess). The murderess is the shepherdess Galathea whose flinty heart slays her faithful shepherd suitor Tyter, or so he claims. A Dutch songbook staple for several decades after the 1620s.
(³When Daphne the most beautiful maid²). Modern recordings have made Daphne one of the hits of the Lust-hof, but it was a 17th-century favorite as well. The text and tune come from a 1610s English ballad telling the classical tale of how Phoebus Apollo pursued Daphne so relentlessly that in desperation she cried out to the goddess Diana to turn her into a laurel tree.
2. Courant, of Harte diefje waerom zoo stil [Second Courant, or, Thief of my heart, why so quiet?]. Dowland's 1597 air "Now, o now, I needs must part" was ubiquitously popular in England and known in many instrumental arrangements as the "Frog Galliard." This is the ornamented version Van Eyck follows in his setting. The Lust-hof title is unknown elsewhere, but it fits the tune neatly, and the placing of this piece here, flanked by known theater tunes, is suggestive of a possible origin.
(If you want me to recover). Most of this French title made it to the Netherlands, but Francois de Chancy's 1635 air really read, "Si vous ne voulez me guerir." In either case, it's a tale of frustrated love, but Van Eyck's uncommon dotted-rhythm variations remain sprightly and unaware of it. Baubles of French court life in the form of courants, airs, ballets, and sarabandes littered the landscape of Dutch bergeretttes and instrumental music in the 17th century. The source of the unnamed ones is as hard to identify as the proverbial needle in the haystack.
(What shall we do in the evening?). The only originally German secular song in the Lust-hof, this rowdy come-on ballad is found in many late 16th-century German lute manuscripts. Its very simplicity makes it a perfect base for variation; Van Eyck gives it a runaway high of thirteen times while also using a greater variety of rhythmic patterns than he used in any other piece.
Text: Ruth van Baak Griffioen
The g altos have a dark, powerful sound which
I find suitable for some of the slow movements.
The construction priciples of the larger
instruments allow more differentiation in
tone color, providing interesting dynamics
for the slow, melodic themes. The so-called
Rosenborg soprano is one of a small number
of surviving instruments which have been
around in van Eyck¹s life-time. The original
instrument is kept in Rosenborg Castle, a
beautiful renaissance castle, a couple of
minutes¹ walk from where I used to live in
central Copenhagen. The recorder is a precious
instrument made of an exquisite material:
All instruments by Fred Morgan, Daylesford, Australia, and Paul Whinray, Te Henga, New Zealand. None of my work would have been possible without these unique artists. Thank you both.