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International Record Review - (09//2014)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code barres / Barcode : 0093046751524 (ID440)

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Reviewer:  Marc Rochester


This disc makes no attempt to present a systematic overview of Dowland's output or even a representative cross‑section of his lute music. It is simply 23 tracks which contain those Dowland pieces for which, as the title suggests, Paul O’Dette has a particular fondness It revisits music which he first presented on disc for Harmonia Mundi when he recorded Dowland's complete lute works over five discs between 1994 and 1996. Over, the intervening years, O'Dette has performed this music extensively and believes that the time has now come to reassess his approach and see how it has changed. As he writes in his own booklet notes; 'The music of John Dowland has been a constant source of inspiration and wonderment for me ever since I first picked up a lute more than four decades ago.' And it shows.

Some (if not all) of his playing on this disc is both inspired and inspirational, the intensely lovely Semper Dowland semper dolens a special moment of the most profoundly moving music‑making, while the delicate and delicious ornamentation of The King of Denmark, his Galliard is an absolute joy to experience. The sense of 'wonderment' is equally obvious in the reverent way he closes Lachrimae, in the awed start to the Fantasie and in the deeply reflective account of Walsingham.

Virtuosity ‑ and there is a considerable amount of it to be heard here ‑ is restrained and totally devoid of extrovert display, yet one can only marvel at the fluency of O'Dette's fingerwork and articulation in such richly contrapuntal pieces as The Frog Galliard and in both of the pieces called A Fancy. I love the jaunty rhythmic buoyancy he brings to the more lively numbers ‑ The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard is positively jazzy in its syncopated figures ‑ and relish the touches of humour revealed in such pieces as The Shoemaker's Wife and Mrs Winter's Jump.

Above all, the disc allows us to eavesdrop on a truly great musician indulging in what communicates itself as a deep and genuinely personal enjoyment in the act of making music. Playing on a somewhat larger instrument than he normally uses for Dowland, O'Dette's performances have considerable range and depth to them. But the recording maintains a real sense of intimacy, and while there is remarkably little extraneous physical playing noise, the intakes of breath and the sometimes heavy breathing point to a level of intensity and concentration which only enhances the sheer pleasure of these performances.

Exactly halfway through the disc comes its emotional climax, certainly so far as O'Dette is concerned. Describing it as 'perhaps Dowland's greatest solo lute work', his performance of Farewell, with its gently rising chromatic lines, teeth‑clenching dissonances and expansively drawn‑out lines, is utterly magical, and it is a privilege to be able to share his obvious love of this music. O'Dette suggests that Dowland may have written this 'in a fit of melancholy', looking back over his life as if about to take his leave of it. 'Fortunately', he writes, ‘he lived another 30 years’. At 60, O’Dette also has much more to give, so we would hope that, like Dowland, this is also only a passing


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