Come Again - Dowland and his Contemporaries
see end of review for track listing
Jan Kobow (tenor); Ulrich Wedemeier (lute)
Hamburger Ratsmusik/Simone Eckert
rec. 29-31 January 2013, NDR Landesfunkhaus (Kleiner Sendesaal) Hannover, Germany
CPO 777 799-2 [70.41]
It seems to me, and no doubt to some of you, that John Dowland and William Shakespeare would have known each other. It’s difficult to imagine how they might have got on but as great artists they would have had much in common, not least politically.
The booklet notes, to this fascinating CD by Simone Eckert, the director of the Hamburger Ratsmusik, reminds us that Dowland, who had been lutenist to King Christian IV of Denmark was sent back to England between 1601-2 in order to recruit musicians for his court. Now most commentators in attempting to date ‘Hamlet’ gravitate towards 1602; indeed the editor of the Oxford edition of the play, G.R. Hibbard writes: “Hamlet must have been written and performed by July 26th 1602 when it was entered in the Stationers Register” (p.3).
It all came to a head for me when my wife and I visited Elsinore Castle last October (2012) and went into the vast great hall. It is here that entertainments took place like the famous ‘play within a play’ in Hamlet (Act 3 sc. 2) and where Dowland either alone or in consort would have played. Incidentally the play asks for a ‘Danish march’ when the king and queen enter. Anyway I am sure that Dowland could have told Shakespeare about Denmark. He was probably enquiring for musicians in London and indeed talking to those involved at the then new ‘Globe’ Theatre, which employed many. Who knows if this speculated conversation prompted the play’s composition or just enhanced an existing project. Incidentally it has been said that Shakespeare had Roman Catholic tendencies. Dowland converted to Catholicism at about this time, possibly to his professional detriment. In addition it’s also worth adding that in the song ‘Sorrow Stay’ in Book 2 there come the lines: ‘Come, ye heavy states of night / Do my father’s spirit right”.
The conundrum of who wrote the words for Dowland’s songs has never yet been convincingly addressed. Perhaps he wrote his own most of the time.
What we do know is that Dowland would also have known many continental musicians. They influenced him and he certainly influenced them as this CD attempts to show. Dowland wanted very much to be lutenist to her Majesty but as Peter Warlock pointed out in his now out-of-print ‘The English Ayre’ (OUP, 1926): “The Queen was probably unwilling to take any action that would deprive King James of a much valued servant” (p.43). As it happened the Queen died in March 1603 when Dowland was in Denmark again. Shortly afterwards Dowland was rather ignominiously dismissed from the Danish Court but by 1612 he had received Royal approval and became King James I’s lutenist. There are solo lute pieces on this CD. At that time Shakespeare’s plays were still current especially at court.
Dowland’s books of songs, especially the first one of 1597, had been the hits of the day and the composer had “a way with tunes”. Come again sweet love does now invite which gives the CD its title comes from that book. His second book (1600) included the famous Flow my Tears (Lacrimae) with its falling opening melody, copied by so many and clearly well known before its publication. A third book appeared in 1603. These publications were circulated across Europe especially in Germany and Denmark where Dowland had been personally known. This CD introduces us to well-known names like Praetorius and Scheidt whose Galliard Battaglia is based on Dowland’s King of Denmark’s March but also new ones like Voigtländer whose song Weibernehmen ist kein Pferkekauf uses much of the melodic material of Dowland’s Can se excuse. In fact Dowland reuses his own tunes sometimes as in If my complaints for his Captaine Piper his Galliard. Dowland was also influenced by others. We know he may have composed some of his songs as early as the mid-1580s when he was in Paris. It was probably there that he encountered the wonderful and popular Susanne un jour by Lassus. Perhaps M. Bucton asked him to write a Galiard around it or perhaps it was Dowland’s idea.
It was not only Dowland’s melodies that were so catchy. His harmonies were very rich and fascinating so Borchgrevinck takes the Englishman’s harmonies and turns them into something quite different in his Paduana I. The anonymous Paduana Anglois isnothing more than an elaboration ofCome Again sweet love doth now invite.
I have slightly mixed feelings about Jan Kobow. He is not consistent in capturing the spirit of a song. Some are successful like If my complaints but others lack suitable expression like Come, heavy sleep. I’m not totally enamoured of his English either, or his French, for that matter. Fine knacks for ladies needed a little more care with the consonants. He is however, excellent in Come again, the last track which he neatly ornaments and for which, in the last verse the lute drops out allowing the consort to accompany.
No texts are provided and although Kobow’s diction is good otherwise, the French and German songs certainly need the texts. The instrumental work is delightful and the balance between the consort and the voice well nigh perfect.
So, an interesting disc despite some caveats.
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
The King of Denmark’s Galliard [1.23]
Flow my tears [4.04]
M. Buctons Galiard [1.23]
Galliard 18 [1.20]
Can she excuse [3.00]
The Earle of Essex his Galliard [1.24]
Come, heavy sleep [3.45]
Fine knacks for ladies [2.44]
Captain Piper his Galliard [1.28]
If my complaints [3.11]
Mr. Knight’s Galliard [1.58]
Winter Jomps [0.52]
Come Again [3.19]
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)
Galliard Battaglia [1.57]
Louys de MOY (c.1600)
Pavana d’Aurick [2.54]
William BRADE (1560-1630)
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594)
Susanne un jour [2.13]
Johann SOMMER (c.1627)
Paduana 18 a 5[4.24]
Johann SCHOP (1590-1667)/Johann RIST
Sollt’ich, o Bild [2.46]
Daulant Gagliarde [1.36]
Paduana Anglois [2.22]
Gabriel VOIGTLÄNDER (1596-1643)
Weibernehmen ist kein Pferdkauf[4.14]
Melchior BORCHGREVINCK (c.1570-1632)
Jakob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651)
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Galliarde (CCCVII) [1.36]
Galliarde (CCC) [0.45]