Music in Delft

Although we have very little information about the musical life in Vermeer's home town, there is no doubt that music-making played an important role in the daily life of Delft's citizens as it did in any other town, even though it may not have been comparable in variety and excellence with a large city like Amsterdam.

The most dominant part in public music making were no doubt the organ concerts held in the Nieuwe and the Oude Kerk. Both churches had large organs, built 1545 by Netherlands' most famous organ builder Henrik Niehoff and restored 1632-35 by the organ builder Jan Morlet III from a family of organists and organ builders in Arnhem.1Several smaller organs served mainly for the liturgical accompaniment in the services, although even this accompaniment had been forbidden for a while by the Calvinist Church (see part 2 The musical life of Constantijn Huygens).

We know something about one of the organists in Vermeer's time, Dirck Janszoon Scholl (b. 1640/41 Brielle near Rotterdam, d. 31 March 1727 Delft), organist, carillonneur and composer. He must have received his early musical training from his father, Jan Scholl, who was carillonneur at Brielle. In 1661 Scholl was appointed organist and carillonneur at St Eusebius, Arnhem, where he also became a member of the local collegium musicum. In 1665 he moved to Delft and worked at the Nieuwe Kerk as organist and carillonneur, as it was usual in that time. Besides, he played the harpsichord and the viola da gamba and composed various chamber music, certainly performed by his collegium musicum. Scholl was also active as a carillon and organ expert, inspecting instruments all over the country. With his essay Toegift op (Quirinus) Cis en Dis, published in Pieter Hemony’s De on-noodsakelijkheid en ondienstigheid van Cis en Dis in de bassen der klokken ['The uselessness of Cis and Dis in the bass bells'] (Delft, 1678) Scholl was involved in a controversy between the famous bell founder Pieter Hemony and Quirinus Blankenburg (b. Gouda 1654, d. The Hague 1739), likewise a proficient organist, keyboard player, composer and carillon expert, who proposed in connection with a new carillon for Saint Janskerk in Gouda the inclusion of C and D in the lowest octave of the bells and defended his position in his essay De noodsakelijkheid van Cis en Dis in de bassen der klokken, (c. 1677, lost).

Scholl's only surviving compositions are the simple French dances printed in Vrede-triumph ofF Thalia’s lust-hoff (1678). After his death he was succeeded by his son Hubertus. Both are buried in Oude Kerk.

Dirck Scholl is not to be confused with his younger brother Cornelius (1650–1733), who was also an appointed organist and carillonneur in The Hague and Delft.

Dirck Scholl
Portrait of Dirck Scholl at the
age of 58

Thomas van der Wilt.
c. 1698/99

In the background the
spire of the Nieuwe Kerk.
Gemeentearchief Delft.

Dirck Janszoon Scholl (born 1640/41 Brielle near Rotterdam, died 31 March 1727 Delft), organist, carillonneur and composer. He must have received his early musical training from his father, Jan Scholl, who was carillonneur at Brielle. In 1661 Scholl was appointed organist and carillonneur at Saint Eusebius, Arnhem, where he also became a member of the local collegium musicum. In 1665 he moved to Delft and worked at the Nieuwe Kerk as organist and carilloneur, as it was usual in that time.

Besides, he played the harpsichord and the viola da gamba and composed various chamber music, certainly performed by his collegium musicum in Delft. Scholl was also active as a carillon and organ expert and inspected instruments all over the country. With his essay Toegift op (Quirinus) Cis en Dis, published in Pieter Hemony’s De on-noodsakelijkheid en ondienstigheid van Cis en Dis in de bassen der klokken ["The uselessness of Cis and Dis in the bass bells"] (Delft, 1678) Scholl was involved in a controversy between the famous bell founder Pieter Hemony and Quirinus Blankenburg (1654-1739), likewise a proficient organist, keyboard player, composer and carillon expert, who proposed in connection with a new carillon for Saint Janskerk in Gouda the inclusion of C and D in the lowest octave of the bells and defended his position in his essay De noodsakelijkheid van Cis en Dis in de bassen der klokken, (c. 1677, lost).

Scholl's only surviving compositions are the simple French dances printed in Vrede-triomph ofte Thalia’s lust-hoff (1678). After his death he was succeeded by his son Hubertus. Dirck Scholl is not to be confused with his younger brother Cornelius (1650–1733), who was also an appointed organist and carillonneur in The Hague and Delft

It may be supposed that the Delft authorities employed professional "stadsmuzikanten", mainly trumpeters, trombonists and shawm-players, for official festivities, daily concerts (often in front of the "stadhuis", the city hall) or other official events. A painting by Denijs Alsloot shows such a group of "sdadsspeellieden" (city musicians).2

In the 17th century, Delft was a prosperous town with several flourishing industries including many breweries, the famous earthenware and porcelain "Delft Blue" and tapestry weaving. Delft's wealthy burghers were proud of their new refined life-style and decorated their homes with paintings, maps and colorful carpets. And of course, music making was an important part of this new life style. To show off their new social status, they commissioned family portraits in rich interior settings in many cases with musical instruments. An example of this kind of family portrait is the well-known Portrait of the Catholic Family van der Dussen by the Delft artist Hendrick van Vliet.

Familie van der Dussen, Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet
Familie van der Dussen
Hendrick Cornelisz. van Vliet
1640
Oil on canvas, 159 x 210 cm.
Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft

Besides demonstrating the pleasure of music making, the depiction of the family singing or playing musical instruments have an iconographical meaning indicating the harmony within the family. The painting shows the head of the family, the wealthy Delft nobleman Michiel van der Dussen, playing the recorder with his two elder sons, beside them the mother and three daughters. Their Catholic confession was signaled by a crucifix on the sideboard. The music (visible on the music stand) which they are playing is the motet Factum est silentium for eight voices, composed by Hieronymus Praetorius (Hamburg) to the honor of the Archangel Michael, the family's patron saint.3 Other recorders are visible on the left side.

Another wealthy Delft citizen with distinct musical interests and skills was the brewer Cornelis Graswinckel (1582-1664). In a detailed codicil to his last will, dated 27 October 1653, he listed a remarkable collection of printed music books both for vocal and instrumental music, hand-written tabulatuurboeken, as well as a collection of wind and string instruments, like a set of "Norenburger fluiten" (recorders made in Nuremberg/Germany), various other recorders (one made of ebony), a set of viola da gambas and a harpsichord. Cornelis made exact specifications that each instrument should go to that of his children with the best talent to play it.

Taking into account the fact that Cornelis Graswinckel4 belonged to the Dutch Reformed Church, the great number of Latin motets (including many settings of Marian antiphones) in his collection is striking indeed, but far from exceptional in that times.5

* in "Hannalore und Stefan Reuter, Historische Orgeln Spaniens und der Niederlande" in Fotoausstellung zum Jubiläum 350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede, Münster 1998.

Suggested Listening:

Lully: Les Divertissements de Versailles

  • Jean-Baptise Lully.Les Arts Florissants, William Christie (Audio CD)

Jean-Baptiste Lully and the tragédie lyrique on the net:

Main Source of Information:

  • Rudolf Rasch, "De moeizame introductie van de opera in de Republiek," in Een muziekgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, chief editor: Louis Peter Grijp, Amsterdam 2001, pp. 311-316.

  1. Flor Peeters .... S. 137/138 (illus.). See also the brochure De vroegere en de tegenwoordige orgels in de Oude en Nieuwe Kerk te Delft, by M. A. Vente (available in the Nieuwe Kerk Delft). Jahrhundert, Antwerpen 1971, S. 137/138 (illus.).
  2. from: Een muziekgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, chief editor: Peter Louis Grijp, Amsterdam 2001, p. 204/205 (illus.)
  3. ibid. p. 261/262 (illus.)
  4. Cornelis Graswinckel (1582-1664). Member of a family of wealthy Delft beer brewers. He owned a library of music books and a great number of musical instruments, including various flutes, gamba's and a "claeuwesimme" (harpsichord, clavichord or virginal).
  5. Frits Noske, Music Bridging Divided Religions. The Motet in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republik I. Wilhelmshaven 1989. 22-23; and Maarten Albert Vente, "Aspecten van de Delftse Muziekgeschiedenis". De Stad Delft. Cultuur and maatschapij van 1572 tot 1667. Ed. Ineke V. T. Spaander, Delft: Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof 1981. 232-35. For further information see Vente, ibid., tot 1572, 157-162, and Bastiaan van der Werf, "Aspecten van de Delftse Muziekgeschiedenis", ibid., van 1667 to1 1813. pp. 161-63.

.by Adelheid Rech.

View of Delft, Daniël Vosmaer
A View of Delft through an
Imaginary Loggia

Daniel Vosmaer
1663
Oil on canvas, 91 x 113 cm.
Museum Het Prinsenhof , Delft
Oude Kerk Delft, Johannes Bosboom
Oude Kerk Delft
Johannes Bosboom
1855
Oil on canvas

Organ by Henrik Niehoff, 1545, restored by Jan Morlet III, 1632/33, pulled down 1855 (see also note 1).
Emanuel de Witte, Interior of a Protestant Church
Interior of a Protestant Church
Emanuel de Witte
Koninklijk Museum voor Schoone Kunsten, Antwerp

The painting shows the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft after the restoration of the organ by Jan Morlet III, 1663-35 (see also in 1)
Brusselse stadsmuzikanten
Brusselse stadsmuzikanten (detail)
Denijs Alsloot
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Brussel

This is, of course, the magnificent group of a large city like Brussels. It shows (from left to right) a dulcian, a shawm, a cornet, two shawms and a trombone.
Looking Over Vermeer's Shoulder
The complete book on the technique and studio practices of Johannes Vermeer
2nd edition
eBook / PDF
+300 color illus.
Jan., 2016


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