This live recording featuring soprano Carolyn Sampson and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth comes from a recital the pair gave at London's Wigmore Hall in December 2008. The title, Not Just Dowland: Songs for Soprano and Lute, includes only three tracks by Dowland and primarily serves to draw attention to the great many other composers who wrote lute songs in the Renaissance and Early Baroque eras. The English and Italian composers include Robert Johnson, who is represented by five pieces, and Philip Rosseter, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, Alessandro Piccinini, Giulio Caccini, Giovanni Kapsberger, and Tarquinio Merula. Eight tracks are devoted to Wadsworth's solos on lute or theorbo, and he uses the theorbo to accompany the Italian songs. The album is clearly marketed to Dowland fans, who should be delighted that Sampson and Wadsworth have highlighted such lovely repertoire using the same performing forces as Dowland. Almost all the English songs are in the somber mood characteristic of Dowland, and the Italian songs have a broader expressive range, some of them, like the Monteverdi, quite sunny, and they are generally more virtuosic. Although Sampson has an extensive repertoire reaching into the modern era, her specialty is the Baroque, for which her light, pure, crystalline voice is beautifully suited. Her performance of Dowland's In darkness let me dwell doesn't have the anguished gravitas that many singers bring to it, but it is touching in its chaste understatement. She is most fully in her element in the songs that show off the supple agility of her voice. Wadsworth's solos make up a significant part of the recital, and the sensitivity and soulfulness of his playing are especially engaging. The sound is clean and warm, but the amount of applause that's included between sets seems excessive and distracting.
Not Just Dowland: Songs for Soprano and Lute Review
by Stephen Eddins