Van Eyck’s variations on the tune “Boffons,” performed by the Dutch recorder player Hanneke van Proosdij, as part of the Voices of Music van Eyck project, October, 2017. Support the van Eyck project! Voices of Music is filming the important works of van Eyck and making the audio and video free for anyone to enjoy. Your donations make these videos possible. This work is here presented for the first time in 4K, ultra-high definition video.
Jacob van Eyck was a Dutch carillonneur, bell expert, recorder player and composer. He inherited the noble title of ‘joncker’ (or jonkheer), and was born blind. It was he who discovered the connection between a bell’s shape and its overtone structure, which enabled bells to be tuned properly. In this he had the cooperation of the famous bellfounders François and Pieter Hemony. He was hired by the city of Utrecht as carillonneur of the Janskerk, the Jacobikerk and City Hall, and he was commissioned to entertain the passers-by on the square in front of the St. Jans church “with the sound of his recorder.”
The Janskerkhof was a park with small pathways and trees where the young people of Utrecht could meet and socialize. What was musical life in The Netherlands like in the 17th century? The influx of many talented artists, musicians and merchants fleeing the rigors of Spanish rule helped Amsterdam become the wealthiest trading center in the world. In the first half of the 17th century the number of inhabitants quadrupled, as the city was a magnet for anyone with money.
The sudden flourishing of maritime commerce gave birth to a large, wealthy merchant class and an economic prosperity which fostered enthusiasm for the visual arts, literature and science. Though the art of painting blossomed during the Golden Age, music at court and in church did not. The Franco-Flemish musicians were famous in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries; however, after the abdication of Charles V, musical life in the Netherlands was no longer given a place of pride at the courts.
Nonetheless, music continued to play a significant role in daily life in the Netherlands, in spite of the lack of aristocratic patronage and the dampening restrictions from the Calvinist church. The strength of Dutch music during the 17th century lies not in intricate polyphony or Baroque compositions, but in song, street music and music making at home. The Dutch loved the popular tunes from all walks of life, and these are mirrored in van Eyck’s splendid collection of variations for the recorder. #JacobVanEyck