Seaven Teares: Music of John Dowland
The King's Noyse: David Douglas director
Harmonia Mundi HMU 907276 (

cd cover The seven pavans that make up Lacrimae, or Seaven Teares (1604) point up an intriguing and likely endless discussion about emotional response to and emotional content in music. Have the qualities of the morose and melancholy merely served what has been fashionable in music purveying over the centuries? Or have some artists actually lifted the costume of sentimentality, to see the profound organic logic of crying, its body-cleansing mandate, and music's long effective catalyst for such? John Dowland, interestingly, may have been in both camps. Each of the seven 4-minute instrumentals arranged here for period violin quintet plus lute (Paul O'Dette) actually name categories of weeping, such as "the old tears", "the new old tears", "sighing tears", "sad tears", "forced tears", "a lover's tears" and finally "true tears". The King's Noyse have looted the Dowland books of sad song and doleful dance to serve 75 minutes and 24 pieces of affecting late Rennaissance entertainment/musicotherapy (your choice). By this prolificity, Dowland was either a sad fellow or had quite a market for aristocratic blues in his time. For the sad song part (five, including; "Sorrow stay", "Go crystall teares", "I saw my lady weepe", "Come heavy sleepe" and "Flow my teares"), soprano Ellen Hargis appears in duet with lute master O'Dette, and her brilliantly clear, mercifully incisive voice would have made Dowland sob. Elsewhere, look for mostly warm, sweet minor key meditations, the highlight of which is the half-hour Lacrimae Suite. The pavans are richly constructed, gently weaving minor and major key motives yet, the musical material only occasionally lives up to the pitch of angst relief required in our time. It is the song lyrics that speak directly and most helpfully today.

"Sorow was there made faire,
And passion wise, teares a delightfull thing"

Still, this is gorgeous music making, sensibly organized for textural balance between slow string dances and solemn voice-lute duets, with outstanding chamber acoustics. In its very essence, this is a rare, crucial and selfish petition, on behalf of music and poetry, for anyone's time alone with personal pain.

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