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John DOWLAND (1562-1626)
Lachrimae Pavan
; Galliard to Lachrimae, Pavan (P16); The Earl of Essex, his Galliard; Pavan (P18); M. Giles Hobie’s Galliard; Dowland’s Tears; Sir Henry Umpton’s Funeral; Sir John Langton’s Pavan; Langton’s Galliard; Piper’s Pavan; Captain Digorie Piper’s Galliard; Dowland’s Adieu; Galliard (P30); Mignarda (Henry Noel’s Galliard); Lachrimae (alternative version); Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
Nigel North (lute)
rec. St. John Chrysostom Church, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, 16–19 June 2005
NAXOS 8.557862 [66.03]

This is the second volume of Nigel North’s planned recording of all of John Dowland’s solo lute music (see review of Volume 1). Of course, other lutenists have recorded complete Dowland sets but these have a habit of slipping out of the catalogue; then, there is the issue of price. Even at full price, North’s playing would be worth having and at bargain price you certainly can’t go wrong.
In volume 1, North organised his recital into alternating groups of dance-like pieces and free-form works of a profound nature. On this disc, North shows similar imagination in the construction of a programme so that not only are we getting Dowland’s complete lute works but we are also experiencing a series of well put together recitals.
Here he plays pairs of Pavans and Galliards. Though this was a traditional pairing of works, Dowland did not strictly write any pairs. Instead, North starts with Dowland’s Lachrimae Pavan and uses this to set the tone of the recital. The Lachimae Pavan is paired with the Galliard to Lachrimae, which was probably written later. A further two Pavans are based on the Lachrimae model and these North has paired with suitable galliards.
There is a flexible traffic between Dowland’s songs and his lute solos. North extends this with his solo Dowland’s tears, his own arrangement of the lovely song I saw my Lady weep. This is paired with Sir Henry Umpton’s Funeral, a pavan whose opening is very similar to that of the song.
Inevitably North pairs Sir John Langton’s Pavan with Langton’s Galliard. Though the two are not thematically linked they make a good pairing; the joyful pavan being followed by the wonderfully interesting galliard with its use of hemiolas.
North plays the final pairing in reverse order, feeling that they work better that way - as they do; a lovely piece of musicality triumphing over dogmatism.
North seems to be using different lutes for each volume. On volume 1 he played an eight-course and a nine course. On this disc he plays a ten course lute by Canadian luthier, Ray Nurse. North has made his own performing editions of all the music and contributed the illuminating booklet essay that touches in greater detail on the Elizabethan feeling for melancholy.
The melancholy lachrimae threads its way through this recital, though North has been careful to include a variety of other emotions. But melancholy was one of the most fashionable of Elizabethan humours and this recital is a very apt and beautiful tribute to it. So it is entirely fitting that North closes with Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens, a harmonically restless pavan which quotes from the Lachimae Pavan and other of Dowland’s melancholy songs. North also includes an alternative version of the Lachrimae Pavan with divisions probably not by Dowland himself.
North’s playing is not noted for its showiness or brilliancy. Instead he reveals playing of great charm with a notable sense of fantasy; he mines the depths of these pieces, never glossing over the slighter ones. In his Gramophone review of volume 1, William Yeoward described North as ‘veteran lutenist’. In fact North was born in 1954 and so I hope he has many more years of playing to come, but his playing is wonderfully mature and, dare I say it, civilised.

There is only one thing to say about this wonderful recital: buy it!
Robert Hugill


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