Music from the Golden Age of Rembrandt

Musica Amphion, Pieter-Jan Belder
132:01 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Brilliant Classics 95917

I am not a huge fan of musical programmes which use visual artists as a peg – music and painting were often at dramatically different expressive places, a fact illustrated by these CDs of music – delightfully mannered, elegant songs and dance music – which the programme attempts to attach to Rembrandt, who was engaged in an entirely unrelated project of striking gritty realism. Still, I suppose as the music he would have heard around him, it must have some bearing on his work, and anyway two lovely CDs of 17th-century Dutch music beautifully performed are a welcome addition to the canon. The performers have delved deep into the archives and have researched beyond the familiar van Eijck, Hacquart, van Noordt and Sweelinck to find some genuinely unknown music from the period to widen our knowledge. The playing from a wonderfully sonorous consort of viols, with violins and viola, complemented by a fine quartet of vocal soloists and harpsichord and recorder soloists, is beautifully expressive throughout. The music ranges from the sacred to the secular, and from the very beginning of the 17th century with music by Cornelis Schuyt to its very end and a trio sonata by the splendidly named Benedictus Buns. By this time, the artist had been dead for thirty years, but this music usefully rounds off the century and the Golden Age of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. If this was the soundtrack behind the paintings of Rembrandt, probably the best way to approach it is to have it playing gently in the background much as the original music would have done, and who knows, perhaps you too will be inspired to put brush to canvas.

D. James Ross