Musical Company, Johannes Voorhout, 1674

Johann Voorhout 'Musizierende Gesellschaft', 1674 The cembalist who gazes at the viewer from the painting and is presumably the person who commissioned it can be identified reliably by reference to a roughly contemporary portrait bearing his name. It is Johann Adam Reinken (1623 – 1722), organist at Hamburg’s Church of St. Catherine. The sheet of music resting on the knee of the gentleman beside the lute player in fact also includes a dedication to Reinken and to his friend Dietrich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707).

Buxtehude was the organist of St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck from 1668 to 1707 and one of the leading composers and musicians of the period. This suggests that one of the two gentlemen in the foreground may represent a Buxtehude portrait. But no comparable pictures exist. So, it seems more appropriate to regard the viol player as a depiction of Buxtehude, all the more so since he is playing the notes D and B, Buxtehude’s initials.

The sheet of music presents a canon on the psalm “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together”. It thereby refers to the friendship and cooperation among musicians who regarded themselves as “learned musicians”, i.e. scholars with deep knowledge of the spiritual content of music rather than mere technically trained instrumentalists. To date, the canon itself is not a known musical work, but according to the notes in the painting it can be sung.


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