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
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
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
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
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
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!
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Seen & Heard
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