Soprano Grace Davidson has risen to prominence in the early music field, largely on the strength of her pure, unaffected singing and exceptional interpretations of Baroque vocal music by Vivaldi and Handel. With this 2018 release from Signum Classics, Davidson performs the First Book of Songes or Ayres of John Dowland, the Elizabethan composer who cultivated melancholia in the lute song Flow, My Tears, and the instrumental pieces based on that melody, Lachrimae or Seven Teares. The songs in this program reflect Dowland's characteristic poetic misery, encapsulated in his motto, "Semper Dowland, semper dolens," but the brooding feeling is tempered by Davidson's lovely singing, which resembles a light in the darkness. Her sweet voice may at first seem too bright and chaste for these songs of thwarted desire and stylized self-pity, though nothing less than Davidson's eloquent expressions and transparent tone would do. Joined by David Miller on lute, the arpeggiated harmonies are spare and dry, so the vocal line carries the greater emotional weight, all the more reason for Davidson's controlled expression and smooth phrasing to maintain a balance with the fragile accompaniment. Highly recommended as one of the most beautiful albums of 2018, this superb collection will build anticipation for a recording of the Second Book of Songes or Ayres.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|The Firste Booke of Songes or Ayres of Fowre Parts|