I’ve been dying to get my hands on one of these ‘Ultra Extended
Playing Time’ SACD discs from BIS. They’re the equivalent of having
one of those big old reel-to-reel tape recorders. Having spent
half your life filling a full reel with old favourites at low
speed, one could just let the thing roll on quietly all evening
while dreaming of enjoying the social life you would have had,
had you not spent half your life collecting all your old favourites
and taping them onto one of those big reel-to-reel tape recorders.
These ultra-long discs only play on SACD reproduction equipment,
trading in the extra software digits used in surround-sound channels
for extra playing time in conventional stereo. Sound quality is
the equal of a conventional CD, the extra convenience being in
not having to change discs the whole time, and in more compact
storage. It’s doubtful anyone will want to sit and listen to an
over four-hour recital of anything, but that’s not the point.
You trade the convenience of multi-disc sets against a single
disc which will only play on an SACD player, so the choice is
fairly straightforward depending on your own set-up.
recordings have appeared in more than one guise already from
BIS, being still available in their 4 CD box BIS-CD-722/24,
and also having been made into a well-filled compilation
for those less interested in having absolutely everything from
the one composer.
Despite the seemingly
endless playing time, there is plenty of variety in the programme
on this disc. Dowland’s solo lute music is extraordinarily varied
and ranges from light frivolous pieces with titles such as Mrs.
Winter’s Jump, Mrs. White’s Thing or even Mrs.
White’s Nothing to famously profound works such as the Farewell,
or Semper Dowland Semper Dolens which can express the
darkest melancholy. Lindberg’s expressive range may not be the
most far reaching in the universe, but the contrasts on offer
are more than sufficient to make clear to what kind of piece
you are listening. The playing order follows the titles given
for the books and albums from which the extant editions of the
music has been sourced, and reflects something of the expertise
which was brought in preparing these recordings. There is of
course a certain amount of crossing-over between the purely
instrumental works and the often more well-known vocal songs,
one example being the famous Pavan Lachrimæ which was
also published as the song Flow my teares. This also
applies to several of the galliards, which range from extrovert
dances inspired by 16th-century ‘battle pieces’ but also the
more introvert and lyrical works such as the Melancholy Galliard.
In order to perform these 92 pieces, Jakob Lindberg uses three
different instruments, principally playing an 8-course lute
but also employing a 10-course lute and an 8-course orpharion.
complete recordings of Dowland’s lute music is not huge. Paul
O’Dette’s reportedly more extrovert survey on Harmonia Mundi
has received merited plaudits but I don’t have these to hand.
One of the main challenges in a price-per-note standoff has
to be Nigel
North’s excellent, and I believe still ongoing set for Naxos.
North’s sense of colour and feel for the dynamic projection
of sometimes quite complicated counterpoint are comparable with
that of Lindberg, and both have a nice lyrical turn of phrase
in the more song-like numbers. Jakob Lindberg’s recordings are
made in a pleasantly intimate space: not too dry in acoustic,
but reflecting the more likely circumstances of a music-room
diversion than a church recital.
This is most definitely
one place where you can learn to appreciate the subtleties of
Dowland’s art, as well as much about those 16th century
sensibilities and humours. 13 years on it may no longer be the
last word in this repertoire, but does remain highly competitive,
and from where I’m sitting it is a joy and feast for the ears.