2.5. ‘Persons of Art’

Utrecht is sure to have made quite an impression on Van Eyck: it was indeed a ‘sumptuous paradise’, at least as far as the bells and carillons were concerned. As a former bishopric, Utrecht was chock full of churches, monasteries and convents, and thus also a huge assortment of bells. In this respect it goes without saying that the city could really do with a man like Jacob van Eyck, even more so since former Catholic institutions had been assigned new functions. Such a fabulous employment opportunity was nowhere else to be found in the Republic. Bell-ringing was, after all, simply part of the organist’s job description. In Utrecht too, the concept of the professional carillonneur was still in its infancy. Van Eyck’s predecessor at the Dom, Herman van Riemsdijck, was a schoolmaster by day. In other words, one was a carillonneur on the side. Van Eyck was the first to make it a career in itself – and he offered something extra, combining expert playing with an unparalleled technical expertise in the area of bells and chimes. This will have undoubtedly played an essential role in his appointment.
Carillons were a status symbol and a sign of prosperity. In Utrecht, moreover, the carillons advertised the city’s own metal industry, one of the city’s most important industrial trades. A wartime manufacturer of cannons could, in more peaceful periods, turn to the casting of church bells.
Finally, Van Eyck’s appointment can be seen in light of the remarkably favorable artistic climate of the day. Van Eyck’s arrival there coincided with the moment at which the Utrecht School of painting, with Abraham Bloemaert as its patriarch, truly began to flourish. The city developed into the center of painting for the entire Republic. In 1620 Gerard van Honthorst returned from Italy; Dick van Baburen followed suit in 1621 and Jan van Bijlert in 1625. There they had been influenced by the emotional, realistic style of Caravaggio, with his famous chiaroscuro effects. The international stature of these ‘Utrecht Caravaggists’ not only boosted the city’s reputation but provided significant economic benefits as well.
In hiring Van Eyck the city had secured a musician it could show off, perhaps not on an international level but certainly on a national one. His appointment may have been part of a well-orchestrated plan to enhance the quality and status of municipal music in one fell swoop. In the year preceding his appointment, the city council had already secured various ‘persons of art’ to be present as ‘listeners and adjudicators’ at auditions for employment as a municipal musician. These ‘stadstrompers’ – musicians employed by the local government – formed an efficient and well-paid company of five or six members led by a president. The auditions were taken very seriously indeed. In 1630, for instance, one Joannes Cuperus passed muster as a singer, but his sackbut playing was found wanting, and he was given only a ‘provisional’ contract.
The advancement of the municipal music was so important to Utrecht’s city and church officials that in 1626, a year after Van Eyck’s appointment, they were prepared to pay the considerable sum of five hundred guilders a year to the new Dom organist Alewijn de Vois from Leiden, son of the blind organist Pieter de Vois. He had come to Utrecht with a letter of recommendation from Constantijn Huygens. His audition lasted three or four hours; the jury consisted of the burgomasters, stadstrompers ‘and many other gentlemen familiar with the arts’. Presumably Jacob van Eyck was also a member of the jury. The city council normally paid an organist just sixty guilders per year, but now was apparently willing to budget two hundred for the same function. And the Dom chapter added one hundred guilders to its customary contribution of two hundred. They were afraid someone else (i.e. another city) would snatch him up from under Utrecht’s nose. For years Amsterdam was the envy of the rest of the Republic, with the internationally renowned Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck as its organist. But Sweelinck had died in 1621. Amsterdam would have liked to secure Pieter de Vois as Sweelinck’s successor, but he chose to remain in The Hague and maintained a bond with that city throughout his life. Sweelinck’s death ignited cities’ ambitions regarding the organ, and Utrecht was keen to step up as a key player.
The final step in elevating the standard of Utrecht’s musical life was the establishment of a collegium musicum, a musical ensemble stimulated and controlled by the local government. In 1628 mention is first made of ‘amateur musicians’. They requested the use of the room above the secretarial offices once or twice a week for rehearsals, ‘as other cities also offer public premises for such purposes.’ The amateur musicians apparently hoped the Utrecht authorities would be afraid to lose face. The Collegium Musicum Instrumentale was officially established in 1631 and the following year the city would underscore its support with the purchase of a harpsichord made in Antwerp by Ruckers. Members came, without exception, from the most distinguished families in the city. The collegium also participated in the auditions for stadstrompers.
Amateur musicians as well as the stadstrompers enjoyed a privileged status and official patronage, but they were also required to abide by a strict set of rules. The stadstrompers, for instance, were forbidden to perform together with any other musicians. An ordinance and instruction from 1643 refers to the exclusive privilege ‘of performing at solemn meals, banquets and weddings within this city.’ The members were given the dignified classification as the ‘six musicians of the city of Utrecht, traditionally known as Stadstrompers.’ Any outside musician who dared to infringe on the monopoly of the trompers was punished by confiscation of his instrument and a fine of twelve guilders, of which one third was donated to the trompers themselves. If the trompers performed at a private wedding their fee was not to exceed five guilders per person; however, they were allowed to accept extra gratuities if an art-loving guest felt so inclined. When they played an officially sanctioned engagement, they were required to wear the silver letters upon their cloaks or tailcoats of brown cloth. For reasons of security the trompers were engaged for the period of one year.
Trompers and amateurs enjoyed a close association. On Saturday afternoons the trompers were expected to join the collegium musicum and lend their musical assistance. Absence was fined.
These measures all support the notion that the city took the business of music very seriously indeed. The tight reins on municipal music-making also have a clearly religious background as well. The stringently Calvinist city authorities was wary of the spread of godlessness, and of dancing in particular. The 1643 ordinance for stadstrompers expressly forbids the accompaniment of lewd dancing, referring to a resolution against ‘balls and ballets’ that had been adopted on January 9. A general ban on all forms of dancing followed on February 28, 1644. That same year Een kort Tractaetjen van de Danssen (‘A short treatise on dancing’) was published anonymously – obviously the work of the severe Calvinist preacher and professor of theology Gisbertus Voetius, in which the author lashes out at the ‘dance devil’.
1644 was also the year in which Van Eyck published his first works under the title Euterpe oft Speel-goddinne. Many of the themes were dance melodies, and the title page mentioned pavanes and courants. Even though the ban on dancing applied only to the physical act itself, Van Eyck was circumspect enough to first call attention to the ‘Psalms’.

2.12. ‘Some of my inventions on the flute’

Jacob van Eyck’s reputation as a recorder player was largely based on his open-air performances on summer evenings in the Janskerkhof in Utrecht. Little is known about the origins of this practice, but the year 1631 can safely be applied as a terminus post quem. That was the year Van Eyck was appointed carillonneur of the Janskerk, one of his tasks being to play the bells for an hour after dinnertime four evenings a week between May and the Dom carnival.
This particular carillon, however, probably having but twelve bells, was downright limited. But not so the recorder: musically as well as technically, Van Eyck will have seen it as a way of sidestepping the carillon. Van Eyck was, incidentally, not the only municipal musician who gave open-air concerts. A resolution from 1633 decreed that the stadstrompers were henceforth to perform every day in front of city hall, ‘for the entertainment of the decent folk strolling on the square.’
The Janskerkhof was an exceedingly well-kept park. The canons lavished fastidious care on its upkeep, particular on the trees. They can be seen on all the old maps of the vicinity, most clearly on that dating from 1604. (fig. 13) They were trimmed every spring. The chapter employed a handyman named Sander, who also worked as a gardener several days a month during the summer. Sometimes his daughter assisted him. If a storm threatened, the trees were braced. Three times a year, evening festivities required Sander, together with Willem ‘de klepperman’ (a night watchman equipped with a ‘klepper’, or rattle), to guard the trees with particular vigilance, presumably to prevent youngsters from climbing them. The first of these was May Day eve. Van Eyck will undoubtedly have played his variations on ‘De lustelycke Mey’ [nve 110], as they appear in Der Fluyten Lust-hof, at this annual festival. The trees were also guarded during St. Jan’s evening (also known, probably more accurately, as St. Jan’s night) and Pentacost Eve (Whit Saturday).
It is not known precisely how many evenings per year Van Eyck played the recorder in public. ‘Sometimes during the evening’ – ‘somwijlen savons’, as his contract read – is rather loose wording. Van Eyck built up a considerable repertoire over the years. Der Fluyten Lust-hof contains approximately 150 works, although not all of these belonged to his standard repertoire. The first volume appeared in 1644 under the title Euterpe oft Speel-goddinne. Two years later the second volume was published as Der Fluyten Lust-hof II. Early in 1649 a new, expanded Euterpe was published, this time as Der Fluyten Lust-hof I. The collection was now complete: with the words ‘Ik eyndige’ (‘I finish’) on the last page, Van Eyck called it a day.
The question is, whose initiative was this collection: Van Eyck’s or the Amsterdam publisher Paulus Matthijsz’? Van Eyck’s dedication to Constantijn Huygens seems to indicate the former. The composer begins the dedication with the words: ‘Mindful of the eagerness of various lovers of the art of instrumental music, I could not but have some of my inventions on the flute be made public in print […]’ He simply couldn’t resist. The wording is unclear whether he is referring here to specific ‘art-lovers’ who had urged him to publish, or whether Van Eyck published in order to please music-lovers in general.
Van Eyck did not need recognition as a composer to further his professional career. When his first works were printed he was already in his fifties, in those days a relatively advanced age. Perhaps he felt the urge to ‘catalogue’ this music – which existed only in his head – in print. Maybe he also wanted to leave some of his art for posterity.
Whatever the reason, Der Fluyten Lust-hof leaves little doubt as to the maturity of Van Eyck’s recorder playing as an aspect of his professional musicianship. His peers were apparently of the same opinion: the text on his tombstone names first the flute and only then the bells. The carillons on which he played were far from perfect and fell short of his ideal. Twenty bells as opposed to the thirty of his dreams: that is a radical difference indeed. The recorder must have been the medium with which Van Eyck could most fully demonstrate his unparalleled capabilities as an instrumentalist. The virtuosity exhibited in Der Fluyten Lust-hof is as professional as it gets.
The finishing touches had hardly been put on the Lust-hof in 1649, when suddenly Van Eyck was offered the raise mentioned earlier, on the condition that he would entertain visitors strolling in the Janskerkhof with his recorder. The wording of the clause ‘sometimes during the evening’ is deliberately noncommittal. The tradition of Van Eyck’s open-air performances had been around for years, so their timing was obviously no coincidence. The gesture seems to have been an acknowledgment of the completion of Der Fluyten Lust-hof. And so Jacob van Eyck became, a man pushing 60, a salaried recorder player.

7.4. ‘Batali’

The ‘Batali’ [nve 47] is neither a variation work nor a ‘free’ composition: it is a musical potpourri describing a battle (‘bataille’), from the obligatory military build-up to the actual combat itself. Judging from the abundance of repertoire, this kind of work must have been popular in Van Eyck’s day. The composition was usually assembled according to standard formulas peculiar to battle music itself.
Van Eyck’s ‘Batali’ consists of seven separate movements and sections, of which the first, at 76 measures, is the longest. This first section is based almost entirely on the arpeggiated C major triad and appears to be intended to imitate trumpet calls. Breathless repetition of notes and motives succeed in conjuring up an excited, threatening atmosphere. In measure 30 and beyond, the anxiety is heightened by the eighth-note rests. (ex. 189)
For Jacob van Eyck, the ‘Batali’ would have had a special connotation indeed. He grew up in the fortress town of Heusden, which was a military base through and through. Van Eyck would have heard the drums, fifes and trumpets on a daily basis. Presumably as the Utrecht city carillonneur he also played ‘batailles’ on the carillon, for instance, in celebration of military victories or when the Prince of Orange was in town. We know that Van Eyck contributed to such occasions.
Perhaps his ‘Batali’ was originally carillon music. The arpeggiated triads are well suited to the bells. Military music was by nature associated with monophony. This can even be seen in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach: in the St. John Passion (BWV 245), the alto trumpets ‘Der Held aus Juda siegt mit Macht’ in unaccompanied broken triads; and in the aria ‘Streite, siege, starker Held’ from the cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 62), the violins and violas are unisono with the basso continuo.
Van Eyck’s ‘Batali’ held its place in the repertoire until the beginning of the eighteenth century. The eleventh volume of the Oude en nieuwe Hollantse boeren lieties en contredansen, published in Amsterdam around 1715 by Estienne Roger, contains a much-corrupted version (as no. 789) entitled ‘De slag van Pavie’. (ex. 193) The differences are many, but the similarities are too convincing not to acknowledge ‘De slag van Pavie’ as a derivative of Van Eyck’s ‘Batali’. The only movement that is missing entirely is the drum section. The ‘Wilhelmus’ is in ternary meter, just as in Der Fluyten Lust-hof. The final movement shows the greatest number of discrepancies: it is in 3/4 time instead of 4/4, and the excited character has all but vanished.
‘De slag van Pavie’ might at first seem a curious title for this work. The famous battle of Pavia, the decisive engagement of the Italian War of 1521, took place in February 1525 between the emperor Charles V and Francis I of France. This battle had nothing whatever to do with the Netherlands, let alone the ‘Wilhelmus’ (which of course did not even exist yet). This suggests that ‘Slag van Pavia’ was a general term in the time of the Republic to denote musical batailles. The diary of David Beck (1624), schoolteacher from The Hague, supports this theory. On September 23 of that year Beck visited the Grote Kerk in The Hague, ‘listening [...] for a good hour to the ‘battle of Pavia’ on the organ, amidst a goodly crowd’. A hour-long, well-attended performance of battle music: it seems to prove the popularity of the genre. The organist was undoubtedly Pieter de Vois, the regular organist of the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk.
The person who put together Roger’s edition couldn’t possibly have copied the music directly from Van Eyck’s Der Fluyten Lust-hof, as the discrepancies are too glaring. ‘De Slag van Pavie’ can be seen as an attempt at a reconstruction, produced by someone who knew the piece more or less by heart and did his best to recall it at a later date. It was probably a recorder player, judging from the treatment of measure 12 in the first movement. It is the only place in the entire Lust-hof where Van Eyck writes a high d''', and sure enough, it is this very place where the arrangement deviates.
There were probably not many recorder players of Jacob van Eyck’s caliber in the Republic – perhaps none at all. Apparently the arranger, unable himself to reach this note, simplified the melody in his version.

11.1. If it sounds good…

Jacob van Eyck presented his music for an instrument today called soprano (descant) recorder, with sounding c'' (written c') as its lowest note. The notation used in Der Fluyten Lust‑hof does not rule out the possibility of the tenor recorder, sounding an octave lower, but the canons of Sint-Jan referred to a ‘fluytien’ – a ‘little flute’ – when they raised Van Eyck’s salary in 1649. The diminutive suffix points unambiguously to a high-pitched instrument. Seventeenth-century Dutch paintings, with a few exceptions, likewise depict smallish recorders. Additionally, Van Baak Griffioen rightly remarks that ‘the slower-responding tenor is a far less likely vehicle for 32nd-note divisions than the agile soprano.’
The title pages of the printed Der Fluyten Lust-hof advertise the works as suitable for ‘the flute, wind- and all sorts of instruments’. Monophonic solo works by Johan Dicx and Jacob van Noordt, published in ’t Uitnemend Kabinet II in 1649, were listed in the table of contents of some copies of Der Fluyten Lust‑hof I, leading us to conclude that these works can be considered recorder music. The Kabinet was, however, aimed primarily at string players, and none of the monophonic works in this collection carries any indication that would suggest otherwise.
Under these ambiguous circumstances one would do well to take a pragmatic and broad approach to the choice of instrument. These days, however, Jacob van Eyck’s solo works are almost never played on the violin, cornett or transverse flute. Whereas most modern recorder players are far from timid in annexing works originally for other instruments – considering the dearth of original recorder music – the opposite is rarely the case. String players show little, if any, interest in Van Eyck’s music. There is, however, a growing enthusiasm among flutists. Their keenness is due in part to the Vertooninge op de dwars-fluit that Paulus Matthijsz published as a sequel to the Vertoninge en onderwyzinge op de hand-fluit, as well as to the stubborn misconception that these two tutors belonged to Der Fluyten Lust-hof.
The solo works by Jacob van Eyck and the others are today thus the nearly exclusive domain of recorder players, who face the dilemma of choosing the most suitable type of instrument for their performance. Here too, one can best take a pragmatic approach. The figurations Van Eyck and his contemporaries employed were already in place in the sixteenth century and applied to singers and instrumentalists alike, allowing musicians to take a broad and liberal view of the issue of the ‘correct’ instrument. One could say, in the words of Duke Ellington: ‘If it sounds good, it is good.’ This philosophy, however, has not caught on among today’s adherents of ‘authentic performance practice’, who strive for a historically accurate approach to instruments and manner of playing.

(original Dutch text: Thiemo Wind)