Paul Agnew and Christopher Wilson have recorded several discs
of lute songs for Metronome. This disc, which contains selections
from John Dowland’s First and Second Bookes of Songs, is a delightful
collection of some of the best known songs.
Agnew has a fine, clear voice, and sings these
songs with a great deal of humility, not forcing himself on
the music, but giving a very subtle, personal performance. The
well-known song Flow my teares is probably the best example
on this disc of his vocal style. With gentle, relaxed phrasing,
he meanders through the melody rather than trying to take it
Yet at times he tends to add a bit too much
vibrato, almost tremolo, as in Can she excuse my wronges with
virtues cloak? His wavering voice is almost uncomfortable to
listen to at times in this song.
Nevertheless, Agnew gives one of the most engaging
performances of these songs. Together with Christopher Wilson’s
brilliant lute accompaniment, this disc grows on the listener,
its atmosphere being so calm and peaceful that one cannot help
listening to it over and over.
This fine recording of some of John Dowland’s
best lute songs is unique. Paul Agnew’s tenor voice is a welcome
change from the many countertenors who have recorded these songs.
If only he had not restricted himself to selections from Dowland’s
works and recorded all of the songs.