It is in the secular variations that we glimpse most clearly the Sweelinck who could sit down at the harpsichord until past midnight, dazzling his friends with his ability to vary a popular tune in a seemingly inexhaustible variety of ways. The fecundity of invention is staggering, particularly in the two most celebrated sets, those on Est-ce Mars?
and Mein junges Leben hat ein End’
, where the range of expressive and dramatic gestures reaches its apogee. The melody is almost invariably in the top part, and nearly always decorated. New figurations are constantly being introduced, even within variations, for the later Baroque principle of a single affect in each movement holds no sway here.
from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2003