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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



 REVIEW
 BARGAIN OF THE MONTH


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John Dowland (1563-1626)
Lute Music Volume 4: The Queen’s Galliard
see end of review for track listing
Nigel North (lute)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Canada, 28 June-1 July 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570284 [60:18]
Experience Classicsonline

Don’t be put off by the title of this fourth and final CD in an excellent series; it’s just a peg on which to hang the programme – a useful peg because it gives Naxos the opportunity to use a Hilliard miniature of Queen Elizabeth I playing the lute on the cover.  A CD wholly consisting of galliards, mostly in minor keys, would lack variety, but the programme intersperses examples of Dowland’s favourite dance form with transcriptions of his own songs and those of others.  Nor are all of the galliards written according to one recipe – there’s considerable variety among them.
 
I’ve given the details above as they appear on the Naxos website, in greater detail than the CD liner.  The two are at odds in the attribution of the catalogue number for track 5, Complaint, which the insert states to be P60 and the website (correctly) lists as P63. I’m indebted to Naxos for the information, thereby saving me a visit to the British Library to check.
 
Some of the pieces allude to contemporary events: Frog’s Galliard (tr.6) may relate to the wooing of Elizabeth by the Duc d’Alençon, to whom the queen referred as her ‘frog’.  Can she excuse my wrongs? (tr.20) seems to be connected with the Earl of Essex, the Queen’s favourite after the death of Robert Dudley, who was constantly provoking the queen and just as regularly being forgiven.  Loth to depart (tr.23) may be connected with a contemporary ballad about Essex’s expedition to quell the wild Irish, an enterprise which ended in disaster.
 
The final piece, The King of Denmark’s Galliard (tr.25) reminds us of Dowland’s (self-imposed?) exile (as a recusant?) in Denmark, where he hoped to obtain the royal patronage.
 
Interspersed with the galliards are song settings, two of them newly worked by Nigel North himself: track 12, based on Come again, sweet love, and track 16 on Awake sweet love.  The latter is more elaborate than the normal arrangement, probably by Cutting rather than Dowland himself, on the previous track.  Neither outstays its welcome; both are thoroughly idiomatic.
 
I enjoyed these song settings slightly more than the galliards, if only for the pleasure of recognising the songs themselves, a pleasure which would have been shared in greater measure by Dowland’s contemporaries, to whom they would have been very familiar.
 
Nigel North’s playing throughout is as close to perfection as we’re likely to get, not least for his ability to play so expressively without making the extraneous noises of other lutenists.  He has recorded six of these pieces before for Linn: on A Varietie of Lute Lessons (CKD097) he performs The Queen’s Galliard and The King of Denmark’s Galliard; on Go from my Window (CKD176) Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home, Walsingham, Loth to depart and Go from my Window.  In most cases the performances are remarkably similar, but he now takes a little longer, especially over The King of Denmark, Go from my Window and My Lord Willoughby.  Conversely, Loth to depart is now a little faster than on Linn.  I’m not going to try to choose between the Linn and Naxos versions; both are superb.  The Naxos performances obviously benefit from mature consideration, but the Linn recordings include music by Dowland himself and other composers not contained here – see my review of these two recordings in the April, 2009, Download Roundup.
 
Julian Bream in his early 1960s recording took just 1:06 for Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard.  (RCA 09026 61584 2, sadly no longer available).  North on Linn is a little slower (1:19) and on Naxos a little slower still at 1:22.  All three interpretations have merit; Queen Elizabeth was not averse to the levity implied by Bream’s tempo – the rather indecorous la Volta was her favourite dance – but North’s latest version is certainly more regal.
 
I’ve already praised North’s playing on this Naxos series, along with other colleagues, so highly that there’s very little to add at this late stage other than to refer you to those reviews (see below) and to urge you to buy the whole series; the Bargain of the Month designation is for all of them, really, but especially for this final programme which takes us neatly from Queen Elizabeth’s court to that of King Christian.  Finis coronat opus.
 
As on the earlier volumes, the recording is just right and North’s own notes are excellent.  Everything comes together for perfection.  Just don’t forget the Linn CDs – and how about a reissue of Julian Bream’s Golden Age of English Lute Music as a prelude to reissuing the whole Julian Bream Edition?  The Bowman/Spencer Dowland recording, formerly on Saga, which I recently expressed a wish to see reissued, has been restored by Alto, very inexpensively (ALC1048).
 
Brian Wilson
 
Reviews of earlier volumes
Volume 1 – Jonathan Woolf
Volume 2 – Robert Hugill; Gary Higginson
Volume 3 – Jonathan Woolf; Brian Wilson

Track listing
The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, her Galliard, P.41 [1:22] 
The Queen’s Galliard, P.97 [1:44]
Galliard in g minor, P.22, ‘Dowland’s First Galliard’ [2:13]
Galliard in g minor, P.21, ‘John Dowland’s Galliard’ [1:16]
Complaint, P.63, ‘Fortune my foe’ [1:22]
The Frog Galliard, P.23 [2:02]
Aloe, P.68 [3:15] 
Galliard in g minor, P.31, ‘Galliard on Walsingham’ [2:04] 
Walsingham, P.67 [4:50]
Coranto, P.100 [1:48]
Galliard in f minor, P.27 [1:55]
Come away, P.60 (arr. of Come again, Sweet love doth now invite, new version by Nigel North) [2:25] 
Sir John Souch’s Galliard, P.26 [1:42] 
Go from my window, P.64 [4:04] 
Galliard in D major, P.24, ‘Awake sweet love, thou art returned’ [1:21] 
Galliard in D major, P.24, ‘Awake sweet love, thou art returned’ (new version by Nigel North) [2:38] 
What if a day, P.79 [1:43] 
Galliard in c minor, P.35 [1:49] 
My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home, P.66 [1:30] 
Can she excuse, P.42 [1:53] 
Robin, P.70 [3:42]
Fortune my foe, P.62 [2:33] 
Loth to depart, P.69 [6:26] 
Dowland’s Galliard, P.20 [1:36] 
The Most High and Mighty Christianus the Fourth, King of Denmark, His Galliard, P.40 [3:05]   

 


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