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"Come again - John Dowland and his Contemporaries"

Jan Kobow, tenora
Hamburger Ratsmusik
Dir: Simone Eckert

rec: Jan 29 - 31, 2013, Hanover, Landesfunkhaus NDR (Kleiner Sendesaal)
CPO - 777 799-2 (© 2013) (70'41")
Liner-notes: E/D; no lyrics
Cover & track-list

[in order of appearance]
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654): Galliard Battaglia a 5 (SSWV 59) [7]; John DOWLAND (1563-1626): The King of Denmark's Galiard [4]
John DOWLAND: Flow my tears/Lachrymae antiquaea [3,4]; Louys DE MOY (fl 1631-32): Pavana d'Aurick [8]; William BRADE (1560-1630): Paduana [5]; Galliard [5]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Susanne un jour a 5a; John DOWLAND: M. Buctons Galiard [4]; Johann SOMMER (?-c1627): Paduana 18 à 5 [5]; John DOWLAND: Galliarde 18 [5]
John DOWLAND: Can she excuse my wrongsab [2]; The Earle of Essex Galliard [4]; Johann SCHOP (1590-1667): Sollt' ich, o Bild der Tugend nicht preisenab [10]; anon: doulant Gagliardeb [1]; Gabriel VOIGTLÄNDER (1596-1643): Weibernehmen ist kein Pferdekaufa [11]
Melchior BORCHGREVINCK (c1570-1632): Paduana 1 [5]; Jacob PRAETORIUS jr (1586-1651): Galliarde 1 [5]
John DOWLAND: Come heavy sleepa [2]; Fine knacks for ladiesab [3]; Captaine Piper his Galliard [4]; If my complaintsab [2]; Johann SCHOP: Paduana [9]; Galliard à 4 [9]
John DOWLAND: Mr Knights Galliardb; Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621): Gaillarde CCCVII [6]; John DOWLAND: winters jompsb; Michael PRAETORIUS: Gaillarde CCC [6]
anon: Paduana Angloisb [1]; John DOWLAND: Come again, sweet lovea [2]

Sources: Lautenbuch der Elisabeth von Hessen, ms Kassel; John Dowland, [2] The Firste Booke of Songes or Ayres of Fowre Partes, 1597; [3] The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres of 2, 4. and 5. parts, 1600; [4] Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, 1604; [5] div, Erster Theil außerlesener Paduanen und Galliarden, 1607; [6] Michael Praetorius, Terpsichore, 1621; [7] Samuel Scheidt, Paduana, galliarda, courante, alemande, intrada, canzonetto, ut vocant, in gratiam musices studiosorum, potissimum violistarum [Ludi Musici, I], 1621; [8] Louys de Moy, Le petit boucquet de Frise orientale, 1631; [9] Johann Schop, Erster Theil newer Paduanen, Galliarden, Allemanden, Balletten, Couranten, Canzonen, 1633; [10] Johann Rist, Galathee, 1642; [11] Gabriel Voigtländer, Erster Theil Allerhand Oden und Lieder, 1642

Simone Eckert, Hermann Hickethier, Barbara Hofmann, Heike Johanna Lindner, viola da gamba; Christian Zincke, viola da gamba, violone; Ulrich Wedemeier, luteb

If one reads quotations from John Dowland it seems that he complained quite a lot. Apparently the fact that for most of his life he failed in his attempts to acquire an official position at the English court severely frustrated him. Otherwise he had little reason to be disappointed about the way his career progressed. In his early years he travelled across France, and later on he visited Italy and worked for some time in several places in Germany and at the court in Copenhagen. Here he was one of the highest paid musicians.

In between he returned to England time and again to overlook the publication of his music. Especially his books of songs were well received. Another token of his status is his influence on other composers of his time. This disc focuses on the reception of his music in Germany. In order to show how his music was reworked, varied or arranged the programme is divided in several sections in which Dowland's compositions are surrounded by instrumental music and some vocal items which are based on his songs and consort music. A considerable number of them are from his Lachrimae.

However, this disc also shows that Dowland was influenced by others. What is probably the trademark of his art and personality, the motif which opens his Lachrimae, is in fact not from his pen, but rather taken from a madrigal by the Italian composer Luca Marenzio, whom Dowland admired more than anyone else. M. Buctons Galiard is based upon Lassus's chanson Susanne un jour. And the programme begins with Samuel Scheidt's Galliard Battaglia which, according to Simone Eckert, is directly related to Dowland's The King of Denmark's Galliard. But that piece is derived from the chanson La Bataille by the French composer Clément Janequin.

I don't know what makes her so sure that Scheidt's piece is based on Dowland's composition. Could it be that both were inspired by Janequin's chanson? In fact, it is not easy to establish how and where a tune came into existence and who was inspired by whom. Some tunes turn up in various countries with different names. In the decades around 1600 there was hardly such a thing as a national musical identity.

In its documentation of the way Dowland influenced his German contemporaries and even composers of a later generation this disc is historically very important. It also shows in how different ways existing material was treated. In this respect it enhances our knowledge about musical practices of the time. In addition we meet various composers who hardly ever appear in recordings, such as Johann Sommer or Gabriel Voigtländer.

Over the years I have heard many recordings of Hamburger Ratsmusik, and I rated almost everyone of them highly. That is also the case as far as the instrumental performances are concerned. The consort music is given outstanding interpretations and Ulrich Wedemeier plays the lute pieces very well. I have reservations in regard to the vocal items. Jan Kobow has the right voice for this repertoire, but I miss the intimacy which especially the Dowland songs need. In the songs with lute the voice is too dominant; they should be much more equal partners. Likewise, in Lassus' Susanne un jour the voice should be part of the polyphonic texture; here Kobow too much acts as a soloist. There is nothing wrong with his attempts to express the text, but he sometimes goes too far, such as in Fine knacks for ladies and Come again. It is also quite surprising that he hardly adds any ornamentation, at least in the Dowland songs. I can't tell whether that is also the case in the other vocal pieces as I have never heard them before. The fact that they are unknown makes it all the more regrettable that the booklet comes without the lyrics. I am surprised about that as it is against the policy of CPO. Lastly I should not forget to mention that no attempt has been made to use a pronunciation which is historically plausible.

However, as most people won't purchase this disc for the Dowland songs their not always convincing interpretation doesn't seriously devalue its merits.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

Hamburger Ratsmusik

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