James Bowman

John Dowland: Lute Songs

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Originally recorded on a pair of LPs in 1976 and 1978, this collection of Dowland lute songs, along with works by his near contemporaries Thomas Campion (here given in the unusual "Campian" spelling), John Danyel (or Daniel), and Philip Rosseter, formed part of the second generation of countertenor recordings in the LP era. The instrument of countertenor James Bowman was durable enough to keep him active well into the next century, even as a greater variety of countertenor voices came on the scene, and this release may be regarded as a cornerstone of the library of countertenor recordings. It reflects its era in various ways. The program consists of an almost unbroken succession of songs, with just three solo lute pieces for contrast. And Bowman's voice has the rounded, Julia Child-a-couple-of-octaves-up quality favored by the early exponents of countertenor singing. This said, countertenors who have developed their own styles in the years since this recording appear to owe a great deal to this release and others like it. For sheer musicality Bowman has rarely been topped. No printed texts are provided in the booklet (which is in English only), but they're hardly needed, at least for anglophones; Bowman, unlike quite a few other countertenors, enunciates everything clearly and, although his style is on the dry, delicate side, seems to weigh the proper expression of every word he sings. Dowland's songs, which for the most part are quite intricate in their structure as compared with those by the other three composers, are intelligently shaped in their larger dimensions as well as their local syntax. The remastering has retained the clear, intimate sound of the original recording. In all this is another worthwhile reissue from the small Alto label of suburban New York City, which has unearthed many small treasures of the twentieth century's recorded legacy. The layout of the booklet is awkward, with a tracklist that begins on the back cover and continues on the previous inside page, but the sketch of Dowland's career is concise and appealing.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:10
2
3:05
3
2:57
4
2:15
5
3:29
6
1:30
7
2:28
8
5:46
9
1:40
10
2:48
11
2:16
12
1:54
13
2:17
14
2:28
15
3:43
16
3:56
17
1:24
18
2:23
19
2:13
20
4:21
21
0:55
22
4:44
23
3:57
24
1:30
25
1:37
26
2:46
27
1:33
blue highlight denotes track pick