During the eleven-day period from March 21 – 31 it has been my practice for many years to spend some time each day reflecting on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, as I have written about here. Our friend Sebastian was born this time of year in 1685 – on March 21 or March 31, depending on whether you recognize Old or New Style (Julian or Gregorian) calendar conventions for commemorating things that happened centuries ago.
Now under quarantine, this annual period of concentration brings a heightened sense of immediacy, of what G.I. Gurdjieff called “The Terror of the Situation”. People around the world are dying, the pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and the reality is: some of those close to me may die, or I may die myself. This is in fact the reality of everyday life, but our drastically more uncertain times underline the certain fact of our mortality. (more…)
The Lute Part XV
“To Attain So Excellent A Science”: John Dowland, Part I
His Adventures Abroad
I bent my course toward the famous prouinces of Germany, where I found both excellent masters, and most honorable Patrons of musicke: Namely, those two miracles of this age for vertue and magnificence, Henry Julio Duke of Brunswick, and learned Maritius Lantzgraue of Hessen, of whose princely vertues & fauors towards me I can neuer speake sufficiently. Neither can I forget the kindnes of Alexandro Horologio, aright learned master of musicke, seruant to the royall Prince the Lantzgraue of Hessen, & Gregorio Howet, Lutenist to the magnificent Duke of Brunswick, both whom I name as well for their loue to me, as also for their excellency in their faculties.
~ John Dowland
The First Books of Songes or Ayres (1597)
The Lute Part XIV
…happy they that in hell
feel not the world’s despite.
~ John Dowland
Flow, my tears
The English musician John Dowland (1563 – 1626) is the central figure in the history of the lute. Composer, lutenist, songwriter, translator, publisher, traveler, academic – four centuries later, Dowland appears larger than life, and in many ways his dreams and accomplishments eclipse those of his contemporaries. Yet Dowland was very much a man of his own time, and his ideals and struggles reflected the concerns, crises, and aspirations of the Elizabethans even as his music expresses universals that resonate deeply with musicians and audiences today.
The Lute Appendix iii c
Just in time for Sebastian’s birthday (March 21 or 31, depending on your calendar preference): here is an overview of recordings of his music performed on the lute. While perhaps not complete, I believe that the major recordings that have been released on compact disc are described or at least acknowledged here, and many others besides. (Lute performances available on CD are nearly the only recordings considered here.) I trust that members of the lute community won’t hesitate to let me know what I have missed!
Most of the compact disc recordings referred to in this article (and many more besides) are listed in the discography to this series.
Nashville’s 13th annual Bach festival – our beloved BACHanalia – will be held:
Friday, March 29, 2019 from 4 – 10 pm
Christ Church Cathedral
900 Broadway in downtown Nashville.
This event is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.
A broad spectrum of musicians from our unique community come together at this time each year to present this one-of-a-kind six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.
For the last several years I’ve had the privilege of learning of the program and schedule ahead of the event and voila! here it is. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by.
The Lute Appendix iii b
Dowland on CD: A Survey of the Solo Lute Recordings: Part I
(Throughout this appendix,
* indicates a recording I have not heard.)
Dedicated Recitals on Single Discs
As with the complete editions, three lutenists have recorded entire CDs dedicated to Dowland’s solo lute music:
The Lute Appendix iii a
In preparation for my (forthcoming) articles on the life and music of John Dowland for this series, I found myself playing, listening to, and reading about his music more often this year than I have in some time. Coming back to Dowland’s music after any length of time is always refreshing. As my intent this time around is an attempt to regard Melancholy John’s œuvre more comprehensively, I eventually found myself methodically listening to all of the recordings of his music I’ve collected over the years, and hence, the idea for this appendix.
The Lute Part XII
When Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) ascended to the throne of England in 1509, the lute did not play the prominent role in English society and culture it would come to hold by the end of the 16th century. In addition to his matrimonial activities, waging war in France, and reforming the church, it is well known that Henry VIII was an enthusiastic musician, and even composer. He invigorated and developed the musical aspects of life at the English court in the first half of the 16th century far beyond what they had been under previous English monarchs, employing dozens of musicians, including lutenists (or lewters, as they appear in contemporary account books).
Before Henry VIII, the English court was still heavily influenced by Burgundian culture, and use of the harp superseded the lute there until the end of the 15th century. The lute rose to prominence in England by the second half of the 16th century, lagging behind much of the continent by a couple of generations.
The 12th annual BACHanalia – our city’s annual Bach festival – will be held on Friday, March 16 from 4 – 10 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville. Once a year, musicians from many parts of our community come together to present this unique six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.
BACHanalia is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.
Once again this year, I was given a special glimpse of the program in advance of this year’s concert, which I leak to you here, Off The Podium readership. We’re in for a tremendous evening of music-making!
This week marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This protest against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church led to the social, cultural, and philosophical revolution we now call the Reformation – which in turn led to many changes in the abilities of governments and religions to control the personal lives of individuals in Western Civilization, among other things.