John Dowland (1563-1626)
John Dowland was an English composer and lute virtuoso.
He wrote several books of songs for voice and lute accompaniment. The lute accompaniment in his songs is notable for its complexity and expressiveness.
“In Darkness Let Me Dwell” is one of Dowland’s songs for voice and lute accompaniment. The subject material is melancholy and that is typical of many of John Dowland’s songs. It is not known who wrote the texts to Dowland’s songs. Dowland was a master of word painting in his songs (emphasizing certain words by using dissonant harmonies, or raising and lowering the melodic line which includes leaping down to a low note or leaping up to a high note). The song “In Darkness” dates from about 1610 and is a late composition.
Here is a recording of “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” sung by Christian Hilz, Baritone, and accompanied on the lute by Rolf Lislevand on the lute. Listen to the beautiful melodic line and how expresive it is. Listen to the wonderful lute accompaniment, how complex it is, and how well it fits together with the vocal line. I chose this song for my blog because I think it is one of Dowland’s most beautiful songs in his entire output. His music is old but does not sound dated at all. I think it sounds quite modern compared to some of the music written during Dowland’s lifetime.
John Dowland (1563-1626) was an English composer and virtuoso lute player. During his lifetime he was known for his lute playing and singing voice.
Dowland was a prolific composer of great talent and originality. He wrote about 70 pieces for the solo lute and about 84 songs with lute accompaniment.
Dowland raised up the level of English song. In his best songs the mood and emotion of the verse is perfectly matched by the music. The intensity of the lute accompaniment to the melody, and the skill and virtuosity of the writing in the lute accompaniment is ahead of its time. In his best songs there are some wonderful biting discords in the harmony that Dowland uses to express profound emotion. Another interesting characteristic of Dowland’s music is that some of his songs are in major keys (people sometimes associate major keys with music that is happy) but they have a tinge of a melancholic mood to them.
Paul Agnew is a Scottish operatic tenor. He has worked with many early music ensembles such as the Tallis Scholars, Les Arts Florrisants, and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir. In the early 1990s he decided to embark on a solo career. Paul Agnew has made many recordings for different labels.
Christopher Wilson is a well known British lutenist. He has made many recordings and has performed throughout Britain and around the world. Christopher has performed as a soloist, and collaborated with other musicians and ensembles such as Michael Chance, the viol ensemble Fretwork, and The HIlliard Ensemble.
Here is a YouTube link to a recording of Paul Agnew and Christopher Wilson performing John Dowland’s “Weep You No More Sad Fountains.”