Art shock? Frans Hals painted Holland’s greatest composer

Art shock? Frans Hals painted Holland’s greatest composer


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2021

An unsigned 1606 portrait of the Dutch master-composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck has been identified by a musicologist Pieter Dirksen as the work of the young Haarlem painter Frans Hals.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was organist of Amsterdam’s central Oude Kerk for 40 years, a towering figure in Dutch music. Hals was still unknown at the time.

The painting was previously attributed to Gerrit Pieterszoon, Sweelinck’s younger brother.

Dirksen’s book has been published for the composer’s 400th anniversary.



  • John Borstlap says:

    The great unknown.

  • pvl says:

    Usually and normally it is an art historian and / or restorer, not a musicologist who identified an author of a painting.

  • Terence says:

    I was trying to think of some other Dutch composers.

    I have heard some in concert but the only name that comes to mind is the contemporary composer and pianist Joep Beving.

    I’m tempted to make ‘towering above others” jokes [he’s 207cm] but the music stands on it’s own merits.

    • John Borstlap says:

      This Beving man is not a composer, not even a serious musician, but produces commercial easy listening stuff for the simpletons:

      Dutch contemporary composers? Try again. And again. And again.

      The only really Dutch iconic contemporary composer is Louis Andriessen, who achieved star status for having created the ultimate musical symbolism for the typical characteristics of the Dutch population, a feat that Sweelinck with his international affilitations was unable, unwilling, incapable to produce.

      A’s music is what a majority of people in the Low Lands happily recognize as reflecting their own life, their ideas about the world, themselves, the fatherland, and their cultural sensitivities. It is flat, mechanical, lifeless, patronizing, moralizing, glib, streamlined and hard like industrial products, entirely insensitive, rude. In short: the happy escape from everything that represents culture, maturity, understanding of life and of the world, it is the ultimate glass bell of fixated immaturity. That is why A’s music has been exported internationally to reach audiences who long for comparable experiences, unable to find them in their own country. It should be noted however, that these audiences are not the regular audiences for classical music.

  • Norockle says:

    With a provocative headline like “Holland’s Greatest Composer”, one risks incurring the wrath of the visitors (not to mention that of the sponsor), particularly if one is not in the Andriessen fanclub (the Louis Andriessen one, not the Hendrik, which for some may more to their taste.) Sweelinck was okay, but greatest? If you want your socks knocked-off, try a little Julius Röntgen. Sure his music sounds like Brahms, but that’s only because they were buddies, and who knows which way the influence ran. Sweelinck was okay, but perhaps Mr. Röntgen should be considered, too. Unlike the damaging side-effects of over exposure to his relative’s Wilhelm Röntgen’x x-rays, Julius’ works stand-up to repeated exposure with no negative side-effects.