Nigel North and Naxos
here embark on the first volume of a complete (four CD?)
set of the complete Dowland lute works. We have had individual
contributions from Bream but more recently the Consort
of Musicke and, notably, Paul O'Dette have made significant
contributions to the contemporary discography. It would
not be quite true to say however that we are spoiled for
choice, especially at budget price. And that's where North
comes in. Many years ago he recorded some lute solos with
the Deller Consort - what North would doubtless refer to
as his Ancient History period - but of more substantial
impact was his 1980 LP traversal of the complete solo works,
a 5 LP box set with colleagues Bailes, Lindberg, Rooley
and Wilson on Decca L'Oisauu - Lyre DSLO D187D5, a set
I never heard and which has never been transferred to CD.
for Naxos he plays two lutes, an eight and a nine course,
both crafted by the Bristol-based maker Paul Thomson in
the 1990s, one at A440, the other A392 - Paul O’Dette also
plays a Thomson eight course by the way. With them North
presents, fortunately for us in the first volume, all seven
Fantasies and a bewitching array of Jigs and dances. Therefore
he programmes a recital with the spine of the Fantasies,
around which lighter material can prosper and flourish.
the Marches and Jigs his articulation proves crisp and
deft, colouristic and winning. He doesn’t over-press rhythms,
as one can determine in Mrs. White's Thing which
is taken at a tempo that allows for freedom of expression
and clarity of articulation at all times. A Dream is
a stately Pavane, with a noble tread and rather an extensive
setting; interest is maintained throughout by virtue of
colour and phrasal ingenuity. Of course there are light-hearted
settings of which Mrs. Winter's Jump is a notable
example and Mrs.Vaux’s Jig proves equally sprightly
and is projected with alacrity.
holds back at the Canzona start of the First Fantasie,
gradually increasing contrapuntal tension and subtly increasing
the tempo - and in the Fifth he manages to convey flexibility
and also, importantly, a spirit of improvisatory freedom.
The Second Fantasie, maybe the most famous piece in this
first disc, conveys its full measure of melancholy whilst
North reserves an increase in vibrato usage for the Fourth,
based on the cantus firmus Gloria tibi Trinitas.
Pausing briefly to compare
North with Paul O’Dette one finds that the former prefers
a more relaxed tempo and a less intense sense of expression. Mrs
Winter’s Jump is very differently characterised by
both men though the divergences are, if anything, even
wider in Mrs White’s Thing. They offer complementary
views of Dowland, the one teeming with incision, rhythmic
alacrity and drama, but also with no little reflective
power, the other, as represented by North, rather more
reserved and stately, with an interior introspection that
emerges even in some of the more extrovert passages.
Farewell (Fantasie No.3) focuses their different emotive
and rhythmic responses in an expansive setting which is
fully a minute quicker in O’Dette’s hands.
recording in St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario
is quite spacious but doesn’t at all dull the sound. It’s
very pleasurable listening. An auspicious start.