John DOWLAND (1563–1626) A Pleasing Melancholy The Lachrimæ Pavans (1604) and other instrumental pieces
interspersed with songs by Dowland and his contemporaries.
Details after review.
Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Chelys Consort of Viols (Emily Ashton, Ibrahim Aziz, Jennifer Bullock,
Alison Kinder, Sam Stadlen)
James Akers (lute)
rec. March 2016, Girton College Chapel, Cambridge. DDD/DSD
This is one of two recent recordings of Dowland’s Lachrimæ: the
other comes from Alpha, where Thomas Dunford leads a team of four soloists
– Ruby Hughes (soprano), Renoud Van Mechelen (tenor), Paul Agnew (tenor)
and Alain Buet (bass) (Alpha 326). In fact, that’s not exactly what it
seems: though it contains the Lachrimæ Pavan, that’s its only
connection with the 1604 collection of that name –
Another recent Alpha release of Dowland’s Lute Songs didn’t make the grade
for Johan van Veen when first released and I was unimpressed by the reissue
(Alpha 334 –
On yet another Alpha recording, Konge af Danmark, reissued at
mid-price on Alpha Essential Baroque 323, Les Witches perform an
entertaining selection of music by Dowland’s contemporaries who, like him,
composed for the court of Christian IV. (Video trailer).
For a recommendable recent collection of the complete Lachrimæ you
need to turn to Phantasm on Linn CKD527, which I
alongside a number of their other very fine recordings in 2016. That’s an
all-instrumental collection, as is my other top recommendation, from the
Dowland Consort and Jakob Lindberg (BIS-CD-315 –
Download Roundup September 2012/1). Like the very fine Hyperion Helios recording from the Parley of
Instruments (CDH55339 –
Download Roundup July 2010)
that recording presents the Lachrimæ pieces in continuous order
and, other things being equal, that is my preference.
On the new recording they are spread across the programme and interspersed
with vocal and instrumental music by Dowland and his contemporaries but my
mild annoyance at this is more than offset by the quality of the
performances. The Chelys Consort had already made a very favourable
impression on me with an earlier collection of music by Christopher Simpson
– and they give me no cause here to unsay anything that I wrote about them
Despite my preference for the instrumental Lachrimæ components to
follow consecutively, there’s logic to the arrangement on the new BIS
recording as, for example, when the opening Lachrimæ Antiquæ is
immediately followed by the song Flow my tears, from the Second Book
of Songs, which is based on the same tune.
Better still, the vocal items are in the very safe hands of Emma Kirkby
who, regular readers may have deduced, can do no wrong in my book.
Indelicate as it may be to refer to her age 1, I do so only to
note that time has not yet wrought any noticeable diminution in her vocal
qualities or strength except, perhaps, to darken the tone very slightly and
make the outcome even more appropriate to the prevailing mood of melancholy 2.
It’s instructive to compare the new recording with her earlier album Honey from the Hive – details below. Though
the new recording is marginally faster overall and the top notes very
slightly less secure, the impression is that she digs even more deeply into
the deep meaning of the music.
Dowland’s music might have been tailor-made for Emma Kirkby, as was already
evident from her earlier recordings:
- First Book of Songs Decca Oiseau-Lyre 4759114 (download only or
Presto special CD)
- Honey from the Hive BIS-SACD-1475 –
- Time Stands Still (Dowland and contemporaries) Hyperion
Helios CDH55462: Bargain of the Month –
Download News 2013/10
- Orpheus in England (Dowland and Purcell) BIS-CD-1725 3 - Lute Songs (Dowland and Robert Jones) budget-price Erato twofer
Even if you decide not to go for the new release – perhaps you already have
a recording of the Lachrimæ collection, maybe even one of my other
recommendations – it’s still well worth considering one of those other
This now becomes my top recommendation for a recording of Lachrimæ
for all but those – very few, I imagine – averse to Emma Kirkby. Those
preferring an all-instrumental collection should be happy with the BIS,
Linn and Hyperion recordings named above.
I happen to know that she went up to Oxford, as a very young undergraduate,
in the October after I completed my post-grad year, but I’m not going to
say what year that was.
Though very far from being a fan of Peter Pears, except in the works which
Benjamin Britten wrote with him in mind, paradoxically I find the same
quality in his recordings of Dowland and his contemporaries, with Julian
Bream, on two download-only Sony/RCA collections. The earlier Decca
recording from these performers has been reissued by Heritage (HGCD224).
3 A very belated correction and apology: in my review of another Emma
Kirkby recording, The Queen’s Music, I wrongly gave BIS-CD-1725 as
the catalogue number; it should be BIS-CD-1715.
Contents John DOWLAND Lachrimæ Antiquæ
Flow my tears [3:44]
Lachrimæ Antiquæ Novæ
Robert JONES (c.1577–c.1615) Lie down poor heart [4:23]
John DOWLAND If ﬂoods of tears [3:51]
Mourn, mourn, day is with darkness ﬂed [1:31]
M. George Whitehead his Almand [1:29]
Tobias HUME (c.1579–1645)
What greater grief [3:39]
John DOWLAND Paduan [5:27]
John DOWLAND, arr. William WIGTHORPE (c.1570–c.1610) Sorrow, come [3:01]
John DANYEL (1564–c.1625)
Eyes look no more [3:19]
John DOWLAND Lachrimæ Coactæ
Anthony HOLBORNE (c.1545–1602)
arr. Ibrahim Aziz My heavy sprite [2:33]
If I could shut the gate against my thoughts [5:09]
John DOWLAND Lachrimæ Veræ