New Dowland Solos

Diana Poulton made an edition with the collected lute music of John Dowland in 1974, and although there have been some controversies over the attribution of individual pieces and versions, her work is still widely accepted as the standard. Does this mean there are no other lute pieces by Dowland than the ones in the Poulton edition? I thought that would be a pity, and decided to add one new piece, and improve on an existing one.

The new piece is Sir Henry Umpton’s Funerall, a beautiful pavan found in a version for five viols and one lute in Lachrimae or Seven Teares (London, 1604). I know the piece well from this consort version, as I played it in concert often. But what would Dowland or a contemporary of him have done if he found himself without five viols, but wanted to play this piece anyway? It is possible to play just the lute part of the consort version, but then the melody (in the treble viol) is often lacking. With a bit of work, however, it is possible to add the melody on the lute and with a bit more work we can keep some of the inner voices. Where there’s room, we can even keep Dowland’s ornamentation as he wrote it in the lute part. With all this in mind, I decided to make a new solo piece of this pavan. I think the result is very close to what Dowland might have done; it sounds convincing to me. The original consort version does have repeats, but no written-out divisions (fast running notes that ornament the melody) in the repeats, as is often the case in solo works by Dowland. We may assume the treble viol would make his or her own divisions ad lib. To make my new Dowland solo even more complete, I added written-out divisions in the repeats. Here I must say it was harder to emulate Dowland’s style, so I’m sure a connoisseur will notice immediately this is not an original Dowland. You can judge for yourself, as you can find the tablature here.

Another beautiful piece for five viols and one lute from the Lachrimae or Seven Teares is Semper Dowland Semper Dolens. It can be found as a lute solo in Diana Poulton’s edition, and indeed there are several versions of this piece in different manuscripts. None of these completely satisfy me, though, as I feel they deviate from the consort version in especially the melody of the treble viol. So I took the lute part from the consort version as a basis to make a version of the piece that would incorporate as much as possible of the five parts. I like to think of this as yet one more version of Semper Dowland Semper Dolens, as it could have been played by Dowland or one of his contemporaries. Again, find the tablature here.

Both these solo pieces, and two more, I recorded on a CD with lute songs, called His Golden Locks … This CD is the long-awaited result of over 20 years of cooperation with tenor Ludy Vrijdag. I already accompanied Ludy on guitar even before I played lute, and as a duo we had lessons with the late Robert Spencer, in the Deller course in the South of France and at the Royal College of Music in London. Ludy, who’s golden locks indeed are turned to silver by now, always postponed making this CD until he felt himself good enough for the undertaking. Now, near the end of his solo career, he finally had the courage to record his favourite lute songs by Dowland, Campion and Morley. This CD is for sale from me. You can send me an e-mail if you are interested in buying a copy.

David van Ooijen 2011