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David GORTON (b.1978)
Lachrymae Variations (2014) [23:58]
Forlorn Hope (2011) [21:31]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Flow My Teares Fall From Your Springs (1600) arr. David Gorton, 2013 [3:55]
Pavana Lachrymae (c.1600), set by William Byrd, arr. David Gorton, 2013 [4:04]
Forlorn Hope Fancy (c.1590) arr. Stefan Östersjö, 2010 [3:23]
Thomas MORLEY (1557/58-1602)
Pavana and Galiarda (c. 1590) arr. David Gorton, 2015 [6:20]
Stefan Östersjö (guitar)
rec. June 2015, All Souls Church, East Finchley, London (Lachrymae Variations); March 2016, Aldbury Parish Church (Dowland, Morley, Dowland/Byrd); August 2015 at Malmö Academy of Music (Forlorn Hope Fancy, Forlorn Hope)

The English composer David Gorton has here fashioned an engagement with the music of John Dowland’s Lachrimae and the results are two very different structures that pay homage and yet also offer a strong and personal compositional slant on things.

The Lachrymae Variations may seem, in principle, to evoke Britten’s variations on the same theme. Yet Gorton takes things a stage further, muddying the lineage and identity by crafting instead a set of variations on a set of variations made by other composers – men such as Byrd, Farnaby, Morley, William Randall, Heinrich Scheidemann and Sweelinck. The layered four-part string arrangements, played by the ensemble Longbow whose director is Peter Sheppard Skærved, take on an increasingly modern idiom as they develop, each successive variation throwing up more aural challenges than its predecessor, the third and fourth variations significantly more involved than the first two. All this has been meticulously prepared, with the quiet intensity of two interspersed Refrains, so by the time that we arrive at the final fifth variation, the longest of all, the listener can appreciate its microtonal complexities as much as its rapt, slowly evolving drama. This is music that succeeds in being simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar.

Forlorn Hope was written not for a string ensemble of violins, violas, cellos and a single double bass but for the unusual eleven-string alto guitar, played here by Stefan Östersjö whose own transcription of the tune prefaces Gorton’s. Gorton subjects Dowland’s song to breakdown and elongation, turning it into a kind of extended dance sequence with Galliard, Pavan and Almain. This is no pastiche, however, as the use of a new tuning, which includes microtonal pitches, imparts a definitely strange, colouristic patina to the music. It proceeds from dabs of colour, through chordal outburst and scurrying drama until the final Harmonic Fantasia in which chime-like elements end the work with textured elegance.

These are the two main works but there is also Gorton’s arrangement of Flow my teares from the Second Booke of Songs of 1600 to be enjoyed, a sensitive transcription for four parts, as well as his arrangement of Thomas Morley’s Pavana and Galliarda, once again quartet versions of keyboard originals. The disc ends with Gorton’s arrangement for four parts of Byrd’s setting in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book of Dowland’s Lachrimae. The sense of continuity, of arrangements of arrangements, like Russian dolls inside dolls, is palpable throughout this disc.

The notes are customarily excellent – they could hardly be otherwise as they’re by the composer and Michael Gale (who writes on Dowland). The sound is well judged though three different acoustics are involved.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: Brian Wilson ~ Dominy Clements



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