This is the second of two discs by British-American lutenist Nigel North covering the complete lute music of John Dowland, the lutenist Shakespeare would likely have thought of when he thought of the lute. The division of pieces between the two discs is logical, with Dowland's most famous instrumental work, the Lachrimae Pavan, included here along with a group of other pieces that are related to it in some way. The Lachrimae Pavan lives up to its name, but along with Dowland's self-professed melancholy came a more meditative quality; he seemed to enjoy taking a musical idea and working on it some more, even over and above the penchant of his age for reusing musical material and turning vocal into instrumental works. The "alternative version" of the Lachrimae Pavan, track 17, includes divisions or variations probably not by Dowland, but it is still interesting to hear in this context, and the final Semper Dowland Semper Dolens (Always Dowland, Always Sad) also reworks the Lachrimae idea. These works are joined by other pavans, lute versions of sad songs, a funeral piece, and Dowland's Adieu, and even the few faster-paced galliards have a sober tone. North's readings are not lugubrious but rather tap into the reflective quality of Dowland's music; the contents of the disc are sober, to be sure, but North conveys the feeling of a master musician at work in the chambers of a noble patron, setting high standards of skill, refinement, and imagination. The program makes sense on its own as a Dowland lute disc for those who may not want the set of two. The only downside is excessively big, boomy sound, recorded in a Canadian church (was a church a typical locale for a lute performance?) that unforgivingly exposes every little non-tonal noise of the lute.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim