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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 Part XIII
The reign of Queen Elizabeth I – an astounding 45 years from 1558 to 1603 – is often referred to as the Golden Age of English history. The long rule of the Virgin Queen brought momentous advances for England: colonization of the New World and circumnavigation of the globe by English privateers, the dramatic defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, Elizabeth and her advisors’ miraculous achievement of reestablishing and maintaining a Protestant state for nearly fifty years in the face of continental Catholic opposition.
England brought forth an artistic and cultural flowering under Queen Elizabeth – most famously in the development of the theatre and the work of the playwright William Shakespeare, whom she patronized. Music, too, flourished during the Golden Age: English musicians were renowned not only at home but abroad for their excellence and virtuosity, and the Queen herself not only patronized court musicians, she played the lute herself.
Music has been a part of human life for as long as we know. It fascinates me that we live in a time when advances in technology and the efforts of musicologists and musicians have made it possible to learn about, study, listen to, and learn to perform music from a vast profusion of times and cultures – far beyond what was possible in the past.
The Lute Part XVIII
The English lutenist, teacher, and musicologist Diana Poulton, whose long and fruitful life spanned every decade of the twentieth century, is one of the most important figures in the history of the lute.
She was one of the first pioneers in the twentieth century reawakening of interest in the lute. Her contributions include hundreds of radio broadcasts of solo lute music over the BBC beginning in 1926, annual performances at Alfred Dolmetch’s Haslemere Festival between the World Wars, and the founding of The Lute Society with Ian Harwood in 1956.
Her most profound legacies are the pantheon of lutenists who studied with her privately and at the Royal College of Music, and her works of dedication and scholarship devoted to the life and music of the composer with whom she will always be associated, John Dowland.
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.
This past weekend I had the great pleasure of participating in Music City’s first ever festival dedicated to music from before the time of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. The inaugural Nashville Early Music Festival was held Friday & Saturday, September 25 & 26 at Lipscomb University (the festival’s sponsor), and included copious performances of (mostly) baroque music by local musicians as well as visitors from around the country, as well as more informal presentations, masterclasses, and opportunities for musicians, students, and anyone else interested in Early Music to listen, learn, converse, enthuse, and make friends.
I know that I am not alone in hoping that this is only the first annual event for a festival that will grow into a tradition, bringing Early Music to Nashville for years to come.