Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
organist at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam



Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

The Oude Kerk's most famous organist was Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621). He was appointed organist at the age of fifteen to succeed his father, Pieter Swybertszoon. Sweelinck remained the organist of the Oude Kerk until his death. At the time of Sweelinck's appointment, this was a Catholic church. Shortly thereafter, in 1578, the city chose the side of the Reformers and the church became Protestant. Sweelinck continued his work as organist, but from then on in the service of the city government. In the new situation he would play before and after the church service, rather then accompanying it. Additionally the city commissioned him to play for an hour several times during the week.

We know that the famous poet Joost van den Vondel was one of his many listeners. Sweelinck's fame as an organist became such that he attracted students from the Netherlands, Poland, Scandinavia, and particularly Germany. Among his German students we find such famous names as Heinrich Scheidemann and Samuel Scheidt. Through his students, Sweelinck influenced a whole generation of organists and became one of the most important founders of the North German organ school. Without these students, Sweelinck's keyboard pieces would surely have been lost to us. They took home copies of the music they had studied in Amsterdam. These copies found their way into libraries and are now the only source of the works that Sweelinck wrote for the organ or the harpsichord. Sweelinck wrote many vocal pieces; chansons, madrigals and latin motets.
His most impressive work is the setting of all 150 Psalms of the Genevan Psalter. All these works were printed and published during his lifetime, mostly in Antwerp. Sweelinck died in 1621 and was buried in the ambulatory of the Oude Kerk, tombstone nr 100.