Despite the Swedish label for which this disc was recorded, and despite the Swedish origins of the group's leader, the Dowland Consort is English. It has a lot of competition in the realm of instrumental music by John Dowland, but less so for the seven linked pieces that open the program, based on the material used in the famous lute song Seven Teares. (This disc was originally recorded in 1985.) These seven pieces (and the pair of sevens would have had deep significance for Dowland's audience) are unique in Renaissance instrumental music. They expand upon that basic music, not in the manner of a set of variations but rather with the addition of new material. The result is a sequence of pieces that are more polyphonically accomplished than anything else in Dowland's output (he was apparently very proud of these works), deeply melancholy (like everything else in the Seven Teares/Pavana Lachimae family), dense, and intense. It's not a picnic to listen to; buyers in search of a disc of light, romantic English Renaissance music should steer clear, for even the dances later on in the program are taken at a slow and measured pace. The performances have a nice, refined quality, however, and this disc will find a place in many good Renaissance collections. The Dowland Consort consists of a quintet of viols, all copies of instruments from the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, plus director Lindberg's own lute. The viols have a gentle, antique, almost tentative shimmering quality, even in the dances. The top-notch engineers at BIS are full partners in creating the rarefied atmosphere here. Full notes, including a section devoted to the dances' dedicatees (Digorie Piper was a pirate, interestingly enough), are provided in English, Swedish, German, and French.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares, for 5 viols/violins & lute|