Paul Beier

John Dowland: What if a day

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Paul Beier is an American lutenist who has spent much of his life in Italy, where he almost singlehandedly founded a Renaissance and Baroque lute tradition. He is better known for accompanying singers than for solo work, but this fine Dowland release argues for a better acquaintance with the latter. Serious Dowland-heads may already have wanted the album in advance of its release; Beier is a noted researcher as well as a performer, and the booklet here bristles with detail about the sources of Dowland's lute music (for the most part it wasn't transmitted through his own autographs). However, when you get to the music itself, it's a Dowland album for everybody. Beier's playing is confident and direct, with ornaments sparsely but very elegantly executed. There is none of the artifice one sometimes hears in lute music and none of the fashion for extraneous noise. Beier represents the various types of Dowland's music well, including song transcriptions, dances, and fantasy-type pieces in roughly equal amounts. This could be a good starter Dowland album, or equally one for those already deeply into the music.

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