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John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Lute Music Volume 1

Lord Strange's March, P. 65 [1.40]
Mrs. White's Thing, P. 50 [2.14]
Mrs. White's Nothing, P. 56 [1.19]
Fancy (Fantasia) in G major, P. 73, "Tremolo" [3.27]
Mrs. Nichols' Almain, P. 52 [1.34]
Fantasies: No. 1. A Fantasie, P. 1 [4.27]
Prelude, P. 98 [1.06]
Fantasies: No. 5. A Fancy, P. 5 [2.37]
A Dream, P. 75 [5.05]
Fantasies: No. 7. A Fancy, P. 7 [5.02]
Mrs. Winter's Jump, P. 55 [1.40]
Lady Clifton's Spirit, P. 45 [1.48]
Mrs. Vaux's Galliard, P. 32 [2.27]
Mrs. Vaux's Jig, P. 57 [1.16]
Tarleton's Resurrection, P. 59 [2.55]
Fantasies: No. 6. A Fancy, P. 6 [3.00]
Fantasies: No. 2. Forlorn Hope Fancy, P. 2 [3.52]
The Shoemaker's Wife, A Toy, P. 58 [1.14]
Lady Hunsdon's Puffe, P. 54 [1.50]
Orlando Sleepeth, P. 61 [2.55]
Mr Dowland’s Midnight P.99 [1.56]
Fantasies: No.4. Farewell “In Nomine” P.4 [4.34]
Farewell; Fantasie No.3 P.3 [6.41]
Nigel North (lute)
rec. St John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, July 2004
NAXOS 8.557586 [64.39]

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. 
Here 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.
In 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.
He 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.
The 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.

Jonathan Woolf 


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