From the title, one might expect that this release by Norwegian Baroque violinist Bjarte Eike is an exploration of the well-trodden theme of melancholy in British music in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In fact it is that, but it's much more besides. The Image of Melancholy is an experiment with the form in at least three ways, and it should appeal greatly to listeners of a speculative frame of mind. First, Eike and his small Barokksolistene ensemble expand the historical picture in both space and time, mixing traditional music from Scandinavia and beyond (even from Slovakia) with compositions by Dowland, Holborne, and Byrd, and adding Baroque pieces such as one of Biber's Mystery Sonatas that are not precisely "melancholy" but certainly play off the concept in arresting ways. Second, Eike takes the compositional world into the present day, furnishing original pieces, and heavily arranged versions of traditional tunes, of his own and by other contemporary writers. These generally have the effect of providing a sort of atmospheric frame to the earlier music. And third, under the rubric of "post-production," Eike makes use of such techniques as layering, multi-tracking, and even cross-fading from the hip-hop DJ's arsenal. It's all quite gripping, although one wonders whether the church ambiance, giving Eike's violin a brittle tone, quite serves the inwardness toward which Eike is aiming. Nevertheless, listeners looking for a completely different presentation of Dowland's Flow My Tears and similar works of that time, The Image of Melancholy will most certainly offers one. The entire thing gets extra points for sheer originality.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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