Markku Ojanen | Lempäälä Finland | 09/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although some of the words may be a little sad, listening this collection makes me happy. Barbara Bonney is one of my favorites and she is here, too. Dowland's songs are hypnotic. It is also nice background music, if one wants to do something."
An Ideal Dowland Collection for the General Music Lover
Thomas Gleim | Gaithersburg, MD United States | 01/07/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Elizabethan musical sky was star-filled, but surely John Dowland was among the brightest lights in its heavens. Virtuoso lutenist and song-and-dance-writer-par-excellence, his deeply personal and lyrical art is as fresh and captivating at the beginning of the 21st century as it was at the beginning of the 17th century. Dowland could toss off an aristocratic galliard or a short instrumental piece, but his special gift was capturing the ineffable sadness of life, especially of lost or spurned love, and infusing that sadness with a gentle, life-affirming resignation to fate. His music never stoops to the mawkish, as so easily happens in "lost love laments"; indeed, his work is always quite noble. Surely every music lover should know the pleasure of Dowland's aristocratic art.
DG has cobbled together this two disc set from its archives. The recordings were made over a period of more than forty years (from 1964 - 2005). All are period performances and all are in excellent sound. You can see from the track listings on Amazon that all the performers are major artists and that most or all of Dowland's most celebrated music is here. Depending on which day you look, Amazon seems to be varying the price, but even at its most expensive the set sells at or below the Naxos price point.
I found all the performances to be very good to excellent. Anthony Rooley's Consort of Musicke delivers sensitive and really lovely readings of the "Lachrimae, or Seven Tears" - just about ideal. (I'm convinced that the slightly sour intonation you'll hear in a few places results from the use of unequal temperment.) All the singers are good. I most enjoyed Anne Sophie von Otter's exquisitely crafted performances, but Barbara Bonney, Emma Kirkby and Nigel Rogers all turn in very fine efforts. Hearing Goeran Soellscher play some of the solo lute works on an 11-string guitar is a real treat. One thing I really like about this set is the variety: you get consort works, lute songs and instrumental pieces interspersed in a pleasing way, in a balance that seems just right. So you won't experience listening fatigue from an extended sequence of material that is too similar.
I normally shy away from collections of this sort, but this one is very well done, indeed. I wasn't expecting so much from it and imagined that I would have to supplement it with one or two other Dowland discs. But, as much as I love Dowland's music, I think I can always be happy with just this set.
The accompanying booklet contains a short essay on Dowland's career and a chronology of the period (in English, German and French). Full (English) texts are included (but no translations). Highly recommended.
Update, 2/8/2010: The price has greatly increased on this set (why?), but I still believe that it's more than worth the cost.