The lute songs of John Dowland are among his most celebrated works, encompassing Elizabethan ideas of love, loss, and the fashionable conceit of poetic melancholia, which had been cultivated throughout the Renaissance. The dominant mood of sorrow reflected in Dowland’s personal motto, “Semper Dowland, semper dolens” (Always Dowland, always doleful), is explored in such plaintive songs as O sweet woods, I saw my lady weep, Now, O now I needs must part, Come, heavy sleep, and most famous of all, Flow my tears, all of which give full expression to the composer’s stylized lovesickness. To convey the artistry of Dowland’s particular strain of melancholia, soprano Mariana Flores and lutenist Hopkinson Smith imbue their performances with an intimacy and introspection that makes them feel like chamber music of the most private nature. For the most part, Flores’ voice is pure and unaffected, though her rolled Rs sometimes obscure her otherwise clear diction. Smith fulfills the role of accompanist with modesty and simplicity, though his skills come to the fore with his instrumental solos, Mignarda and Go crystal tears. Naïve’s recording is close and focused, with unobtrusive acoustics and evenly balanced sound.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson