Sunday, 20 May 2007

The sound of the Low Countries

One of the things I've come to appreciate as I've travelled around the Netherlands and Belgium is the sound of bells. Carillons are everywhere.

In Antwerp, the cathedral carillon plays 'La Follia' every hour. That's a tune I know from the Renaissance, being a musician, so I felt welcome in Antwerp right from the start (before the nice guy in the tourist office marked my map with the three best serious beer bars in the city - De Waagstuk, Oud Arsenaal, and Kulminator).

And in fact I've got a closer connection with the carillon than that. One of my favourite composers for the recorder is van Eyck - a blind musician who published 'the flute's pleasure garden' or Der Fluytenlusthof in the 1640s. But recorder playing was only his second trade; he was a carilloneur, too - and, what I didn't know, probably started the famous bellfounding Hemony brothers on the right route to producing properly tuned bells, something that had proved difficult to achieve up till then.

So I was happy to find this exceptional recording on Youtube. Credit to Mr van Eyck (any relation?) for this fantastically exciting piece, played on the carillon of Mechelen cathedral.

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