Dowland: Lute Music Vol 2 / Nigel North

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My colleague David Vernier rightly praised Nigel North's unhurried, sensitively inflected John Dowland interpretations on the Arcana label. Perhaps that review inspired the good folks at Naxos to sign North on for its Dowland lute works cycle! Whereas Volume 1 juxtaposed the composer's more complex fantasias with relatively lightweight dance pieces, Volume 2's predominance of pavanes and galliards generally sustains a more reflective mood throughout. Two versions of Dowland's arguably best-known work, the Lachrimae Pavane, bookend the collection, with another wistful beauty, Semper Dowland Semper Dolens (Dowland is always doleful), tacked on at the end, with plenty of lyrical gems in between. Judging North's insightful virtuosity in the face of Paul O'Dette's reference edition on Harmonia Mundi invokes the old apples-versus-oranges cliché.

For the most part North favors more ruminative tempos that he discreetly adjusts in order to approximate how a singer phrases and breathes. By contrast, O'Dette is swifter and goes for larger, more rhythmically defined phrase shapes. He is less likely than North to linger over a piquant dissonance or wide interval leap. In other words, O'Dette is Artur Schnabel or Leon Fleisher to North's Wilhelm Kempff or Claudio Arrau. In the Earl of Essex Galliard, for example, O'Dette's lithe, dance-like playing deliciously points up the cross-rhythms. North's grander, more emphatically accented traversal coaxes more color out of the single lines and rolled chords. And in the aforementioned Semper Dowland, North shaves three minutes off of O'Dette's seven-and-a-half minute timing by not taking repeats. North's scholarly, extremely readable annotations and Naxos' roomy yet detailed engineering can only sweeten this disc's appeal. Highly recommended.

--Jed Distler,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557862

  • UPC: 747313286225

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: John Dowland, Nigel North

  • Performer: Nigel North