Dowland’s Lachrimae 1604

Walt Mundkowsky

[August 2011.]

John DOWLAND: Lachrimae 1604. Philomusica of London, Thurston Dart (hpsi, dir.). Discover Classical Music SP1677 (http://salandpublishing.moonfruit.com/#/discover-classical-music/4538566616). Bought from Amazon.

Dart’s pioneering recording of Dowland’s 21 consort pieces deserves better than a lowly CD-R, but I’m still glad to have it. First a mono L’Oiseau-Lyre in 1958 (OL50163), it came out in fake stereo 15 years later. The expected modern instruments are less vexing than their sizable number — a pity, for Dart understood how this music works. He puts a galliard after each of the seven Lachrimae pavans. I’d rather hear these seven in a row, to study their intricate relationships, but it’s all right (Dowland didn’t specify a sequence).

I recognized this music by peering behind or through the robust string-orchestra textures. Dart’s tempos are a little fast (57:32 to Fretwork’s 60:03), but the dances certainly have a pulse. The pavans come off less well — cousins to Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Hearing, say, Mrs. Nichols Almand inflated to this degree feels very odd and wrong.

Insert and traycard advertise the label; disc details may be found on its website. The titles are laid out on only three tracks: 1-11 (28:04), 12-14 (8:29) and 15-21 (20:59). Here’s the order (info from MusicWeb’s review):

  1. Lachrimae antiquae pavan
  2. Sir John Souch his galliard
  3. Lachrimae antiquae novae pavan
  4. The King of Denmark’s galliard
  5. Lachrimae gementes pavan
  6. The Earl of Essex galliard
  7. Lachrimae tristes pavan
  8. M. Thomas Collier his galliard
  9. Lachrimae coactae pavan
  10. M. Nicholas Gryffith his galliard
  11. Mrs. Nichols Almand
  12. Lachrimae amantis pavan
  13. M. Henry Noel his galliard
  14. Lachrimae verae pavan
  15. Captaine Digorie Piper his galliard
  16. Semper Dowland semper dolens
  17. M. Giles Hobies galliard
  18. Sir Henry Umpton’s funeral
  19. M. Bucton’s galliard
  20. M. John Langton’s pavan
  21. M. George Whitehead his almand

Sound isn’t as bad as I feared (the album is also sold in MP3 format). Slight surface noise and some imperfections mark the source as a decently preserved LP.

In 1976 Rooley / The Consort of Musicke taped it using the composer’s original specs — five viols plus lute (CD 6 in Decca’s Dowland box). They played the seven pavans at the start and substituted violins on top (an option) for the rest. It has worn well, but Fretwork and Savall / Hespèrion XX penetrate more deeply (good luck chasing the latter!). BIS has never culled their catalog, and Lindberg / The Dowland Consort’s 1985 CD is easy to get and perceptive.

Lachrimae 1604 is the earliest instrumental cycle with a current following. It began here.