Mendelssohn’s masterful Fifth Symphony deserves a wider audience.
Organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, composer, harpsichordist and teacher, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck died 400 years ago. Through his pupils, his influence would extend all the way to Johann Sebastian Bach. Accordingly, the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’ laid the foundation for the northern European Baroque tradition.
An impressive motet by Sweelinck is being performed in an arrangement for wind players of the Concertgebouworkest. By contrast, the work written for the orchestra by the Dutch composer Joey Roukens four hundred years later – a fantasy after Sweelinck – is brand new. How does a wildly successful composer whose engaging and inviting music, influenced by pop and film scores, look back on his early seventeenth-century compatriot?
The eighteenth century is represented by Haydn, whose brilliant Sinfonia concertante showcases no fewer than four soloists from the Concertgebouworkest’s own ranks. Mendelssohn composed his Fifth Symphony in 1830 to mark the tercentenary of the Augsburg Confession, a key moment in the Reformation begun by Martin Luther. Oddly enough, this masterful work has always stood in the shadow of its predecessors and rightly deserves a wider audience.