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American Record Guide: (01/2018) 
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Reviewer: William J. Gatens


The cultivation of melancholy seems to have been fashionable in late 16th and early 17thCentury England, and no composer is more closely associated with this fashion than John Dowland (1563-1626). In 1604 he published his collection Lachrymae or Seven Tears Figured in Seven Passionate Pavans with a dedi cation to Anne of Denmark, queen consort of James I. He was then serving as lutenist at the court of Anne’s brother, King Christian IV of Denmark, where he was highly paid and granted generous travel leave. In his dedication to the queen he says that tears are not always shed in sorrow, but sometimes in joy and gladness. Among the many treatises on melancholy of that period, Robert Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), observes that “many men are melancholy by hearing music, but it is a pleasing melancholy” that “expels cares, alters their grieved minds, and easeth it in an instant”. He makes it sound like having a good cry at a sad movie. In addition to consort music, the present recording includes songs by Dowland, Robert Jones, Tobias Hume, John Danyel, and Anthony Holborne. It is noteworthy that the lyrics never mention the immediate cause of sadness. The closest we come is penitential regret for unnamed sins in Danyel’s ‘If I Could Shut the Gate Against my Thoughts’. It is as if naming an adequate reason for melancholy would spoil the effect. In addition to the seven Lachrimae Pavans, the 1604 publication contains 14 other consort dances, each bearing the name of a person. This recording includes just one: ‘M. George Whitehead his Almand’. Two other dance pieces, a Paduan and Volta, possibly arranged by Thomas Simpson, come from a 1621 publication from Hamburg. The nine songs on this program are sung by Emma Kirkby. Now in her 60s, her voice may not have the youthful flavor that helped to make her a pre-eminent early-music soprano beginning in the 1980s, but it has matured into something just as beautiful. The tone is still pure, and one can only marvel at the eloquent expressiveness and flawless projection of phrase in these performances. About a year ago Laurence Dreyfus and the viol consort Phantasm with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny issued a recording of the complete 1604 publication (Linn 527; J/F 2017). It is instructive to compare their performance of the Lachrimae Pavans with this one. It is only fair to say that, based on the recordings I have heard, Phantasm is my favorite among currently active viol consorts. Their performances are marked by liveliness and phrasing that draws the listener into the flow of their playing. This is true even of music at slow tempo like the Dowland pavans. I do not wish to reflect unfavorably on the Chelys Consort, whose performances are exquisite in their own way. They convey a feeling of introspective repose appropriate to music intended for the delectation of the players; Phantasm gives a keener sense of forward motion.

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