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John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
see end of review for track listing
Paul O’Dette (lute)
rec. January 2012, Sauder Hall, Goshen College, Indiana 
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 907515 [75:23]

At first sight I assumed that this collection, called ‘My Favorite Dowland’, was culled from Paul O’Dette’s august back catalogue of Dowland recordings – but no, as they were all taped back in January 2012 in Sauder Hall, Goshen College, Indiana. This is, in fact, something of a treat for the lutenist, a selection of works that he has particularly enjoyed performing over his now – amazingly – decades-long performing and recording career.
His 5-CD set of the complete Dowland lute works stands as permanent testimony to his sympathy for - and mastery of - this repertoire. In those recordings he enjoyed the famed Harmonia Mundi sound – which makes it sound like a sonic-spectacular LP from the stereo age – and he continues to do so to this day; rich, resonant, and warm. It suits his communicative playing, his mastery of the shape and rise and fall of the phraseology of Dowland’s pieces, in whatever form he finds them, whether deeply meditative, rhythmically alive, or whimsical.
O’Dette has shaped the recital into paragraphs – attractive and complementary sets of pieces, sometimes two, sometimes four or other combinations. Nothing very much is made of this in the notes, but it makes for good programming. He is not afraid to take a quite daringly slow tempo for La Mia Barbara, lavishing great care over it, whilst his articulation throughout Sir John Smith, his Almain, P. 47 is deft, pure and true. Riper sonorities can be enjoyed in The Most High and Mighty Christianus the Fourth, King of Denmark, His Galliard (aka, less formally, The King of Denmark, His Galliard). My own favourite in the selection, indeed one of my favourite pieces of Dowland, is The Frog Galliard and so it’s good to report that O’Dette plays the variations with flowing delicacy and lovely tone. But he covers the emotive states very well throughout, as one might of so distinguished an interpreter, bringing expressive intensity to Farewell, and locating the folkloric heart of the ebullient Mrs. Winter's Jump. Suchlike virtues recur again and again - a tendency sometimes to linger and to savour to the fullest extent Dowland’s more melancholy pieces (such as Semper Dowland semper dolens), precise articulation, richness across the strings, an avoidance of gym-shoes in shifts, and a sense of never taking the music for granted.
This is altogether the loveliest imaginable salute from interpreter to revered composer.
Jonathan Woolf
Track listing
Lady Hunsdon's Puffe, P. 54 [1:24]
The Shoemaker's Wife, a Toy, P. 58 [1:07]
La mia Barbara, P. 95 [6:01]
Sir John Smith, his Almain, P. 47 [2:33]
Fantasia in G Minor, P. 6 [2:51]
Sir John Langton's Pavan, P. 14 [5:58]
The Most High and Mighty Christianus the Fourth, King of Denmark, His Galliard, P. 40 [2:51]
The Frog Galliard, P. 23 [1:59]
Lachrimae, P. 15 [5:38]
Galliard to Lachrimae, P. 46 [2:32]
Fantasia in G Major, P. 1 [3:57]Farewell, P. 3 [6:17]
Forlorn Hope, P. 2 [3:38]
The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard, P. 42a [1:45]
A Coy Joy, P. 80 [0:57]
Mrs. Vaux's Jig, P. 57 [1:07]
Mrs. Winter's Jump, P. 55 [1:29]
The Right Honourable the Lady Clifton's Spirit, P. 45 [1:47]
Walsingham, P. 67 [5:05]
Fantasia in D Minor, P. 5 [2:29]
Pavan in G Minor, P. 18 [5:36]
The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, her Galliard, P. 41 [1:13]
Semper Dowland semper dolens, P. 9 [7:09]