Dowland: Seaven Teares

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dowland
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Seaven Teares
PERFORMER: Ellen Hargis (soprano); The King’s Noyse/David Douglass (violin), Paul O’Dette (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907275
There’s a limited choice of discs which mix Dowland’s consort works with his songs, but this one offers a well-balanced selection of both genres, juxtaposing his characteristically plangent music with more jaunty dances. The recording is unusual, too, in that the repertoire is played on Renaissance violins rather than viols – instruments more commonly heard in this repertoire today. The violin consort produces a bright, taught sound, and the effect is enhanced rather unflatteringly here by an extremely dry acoustic. While this means the details of Dowland’s rich and dissonant language are clearly audible, the airlessness does grow a little oppressive. The violins are most effective in the more lively numbers, where the relaxed style of holding the instruments – low down on the arm – and the short bows allow the players a seemingly effortless freedom.

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Soprano Ellen Hargis uses original pronunciation with convincing naturalness, heightening the poetic rhymes and assonances to good effect, and she’s beautifully accompanied by lutenist Paul O’Dette. There might be finer interpretations of some of the songs (Scholl and Martin on Harmonia Mundi, or Agnew and Wilson on Metronome), but nonetheless, as a complete programme, this disc offers an extremely attractive overview of Dowland’s art. Kate Bolton