The Journal of the Dolmetsch Foundation,
Summer 2006, Vol. 62
John Dowland 30 pieces for harpsichord, virginals, or clavichord ed. CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD Edition HH074.SOL, Bicester, 2005 (pbk, Ł30) available through Schott & Co. ISMN M708041 474
Although Dowland left us no music specifically for the harpsichord, virginals or clavichord, many contemporary keyboard arrangements survive, and this is the first time that such arrangements and intabulations have been presented together for comparison and performance. A reverse project of gathering the arrangements for lute from the keyboard pieces of Byrd was published in 1976, so it is high time that the music of the greatest composer for lute should be correspondingly available to keyboard players. Dowland published his first collection of lute songs in 1597; this was followed by a second in 1600 and a third in 1603. He left over eighty secular songs, and arrangements of these were widely circulated during his lifetime.
The book is spiral bound in horizontal format with, on the cover, a print of Dou’s wonderful painting of the curtain lifted upon A Lady playing a Clavichord. Likewise, Christopher Hogwood lifts a curtain on this great repertoire, making the less readily accessible versions available to keyboard players, conveniently within one volume. The different versions are laid out for comparison, one after another, although the diligent student will still need the excellent Musica Brittanica editions for the well-known transcriptions by Bull, Byrd, Farnaby and Gibbons. Christopher Hogwood hopes that this collection will encourage the application of a similar treatment to other pieces from the lute repertoire.
It is clear that the quality of transcription varies but that is, in itself, of much interest, Many are anonymous and some are easier than others but how often we learn much from what is straightforward and simpler to play. Nevertheless, there is some good and challenging music here and, among the lesser-known settings, those of Sweelinck, Philips, Peerson and Scheidt stand out. Christopher Hogwood states that although choices have had to be made, at least one version of every Dowland piece of the sixteen known to exist in a keyboard transcription is included, and in an appendix he lists all known keyboard arrangements of Dowland’s music.
It would be worth reading Peter Holman’s book, Dowland: Lachrymae (1604) and listening to Paul O’Dette or Jacob Lindberg’s Music excellent recordings of the complete Payne has contributed the second article in works for lute before judging the skills of this issue of The Consort. These readers will the different contributions. Dowland’s famous Lachrymae pavan was intended, according to its original title page, for lute, viols or violins, and its popularity throughout Europe is proved by the over ninety settings still in existence. It is good to have the generous seven varied offerings within this volume to add to the more well-known versions. Dowland presented Piper’s Galliard as a solo lute piece, in addition to the song with the words: If my complaints could passions move, and Hogwood provides us with four keyboard versions of the piece.
The music is intelligently set out and easy to read, as well as opening flat. If the reader is reticent about playing this subtle music on a keyboard instrument, it is worth remembering that Dowland was said to have played so sweetly that he would have sounded better on the poorest instrument than a lesser player upon the best. I would therefore recommend it to every keyboard-player to expand their expressive range and to every nonlutenist wanting to explore the music of Dowland, to learn about the art of variation, or to further their knowledge of this great composer.
We are grateful to the editor of The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.