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John DOWLAND (1563?-1626)
Dowland's Tears: Lute Music Volume 2
Lacrimae Pavan [5.24]; Galliard to Lacrimae [2.41]; Pavan (P16) [5.13]; The Earl of Essex His Galliard [1.54]; Pavan (P18) [5.40]; Mr.Giles Hobie’s Galliard [1.55]; Dowland’s Tears (I saw my lady weep arr. North) [2.09]; Sir Henry Umpton’s Funeral [5.56]; Sir John Langton’s Pavan [5.48]; Langton’s Galliard [2.37]; Piper’s Pavan [5.16]; Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard [1.54]; Dowland’s Adieu (P30) [4.58]; Galliard (P30) [1.59]; Mignarda (Henry Noel’s Galliard) [3.00]; Lacrimae (alternative version) [5.15]; Semper Dowland Semper Dolens [4.24]
Nigel North (lute)
rec. St.John’s Chrysostum Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 16-19 June 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.557862 [66.03]



That John Dowland was the greatest English song and lute composer of his period no one would doubt. His five books of songs attest to a greater variety of composition than he is often given credit for.
 
He was an almost exact contemporary of Shakespeare and was born in London. During his service in Paris to the English Ambassador in the 1580s he converted to Roman Catholicism. On the other hand it now seems that Shakespeare had been born into a Roman Catholic family. This helped Dowland as he travelled throughout Europe especially to Catholic lands; certainly it did not help him in his home country. He even worked in Denmark for eight years for that amazingly musical monarch King Christian IV, before being forced to move on in 1606. He did not return to London until 1612, and by then he seems to have lost the impetus and inspiration to compose.
 
His compositions were published within a span of only fifteen years but many will no doubt date back to the sunnier times of the 1580s.
 
The second Book of 1600 has twenty-two songs but the best known at the time and the most iconic is called ‘Lachrymae or Seven Teares’ better known as ‘Flow my tears’ often heard for viol consort. This most beautiful of songs opens the disc as a typical Pavan. The Pavan form is generally of three sections in slightly contrasting keys; what we would call major and minor. Each section is repeated with the repeat gently ornamented. Probably these ornaments were improvised. and Nigel North does this with discretion. The ‘Lacrimae Pavan’ has the famous falling motif at the beginning. This influenced much other music of the period. The Pavan (P16) begins in such a way.
 
The same collection of 1600 also included the wonderful ‘I saw my Lady weep’ arranged here by Nigel North as a lute solo. From now on the motto which Dowland attaches to himself ‘Semper Dowland Semper Dolens’ (always Dowland always sad) seems to hold sway. This wonderful piece ends the CD in sombre mood.
 
In between these publications, by 1603, a sombre period had fallen over the country. It had seen the death of the Queen and of that most Elizabethan of composers Thomas Morley. As well as a withdrawn sadness there is also a mood of inescapable serenity. Much later Dowland was to follow up the collection with two autumnal anthologies ‘A Musical Banquet’ of 1610 and ‘A Pilgrim’s Solace’ - his last publication of 1612. The Mignarda Galliard, which is also known as the song ‘Shall I strive with words to move’, also appears here in a lute arrangement.
 
Nigel North on this his second CD - the first concentrated on Fantasias - in the proposed complete Dowland Lute music has paired Pavans and Galliards. At least that was his intention. However, as he states in his excellent and fascinating booklet note Dowland wrote more Pavans than Galliards. His wonderful collection ‘Lacrimae or Seven Teares’ consists entirely of Pavans. North writes, “my solution was to make seven pairs of Pavans’ (for this CD) and Galliards and to make the emphasis on Melancholy, with more lightness from the Galliards”. Proportionately there remains a predominance of slow music as the Galliards are short. That said, Nigel North is a master of the expressive art of lute playing so there is rarely a dull moment. Mostly the recording aids him, but it’s a good idea to put up the volume more than usual. He is not as closely microphoned as on some lute recordings and does not have such an immediacy of presence.
 
Let’s consider a few other highlights. The melancholy ‘Dowland’s Adieu’ - perhaps written for the composer’s leave-taking of the court of King Christian - is a Pavan and not often recorded. It might have been a good idea to have ended the CD with it.
 
The Earl of Essex’s Galliard is also known as the ‘Battle Galliard’. Essex was executed in early 1600 so the piece comes from the years (c.1598) of his greater popularity at Court. It is in triple time and its famous fanfare opening is strong and memorable. ‘Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard’ is also known as ‘If my complaints could passions move’. Published in the First Book of Songs of 1597, it can also be found in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book arranged by John Bull. Its upward yearning opening is unforgettable.
 
Incidentally the P stands for the main editor of Dowland, Diana Poulton who has also written extensively on the composer. Where a piece does not have a name she has allotted it a number.
 
Altogether this disc is an excellent follow-up to the first. Nigel North competes with any other lutenist who has tackled this repertoire. At Naxos’s excellent price this surely cannot be resisted.

Gary Higginson
 
see also review by Robert Hugill

 



 


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