Dowland: Ayres

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LABELS: Naïve Astrée
WORKS: Ayres
PERFORMER: Gérard Lesne (countertenor); Ensemble Orlando Gibbons
Following his recent recordings of Purcell and Byrd, Gérard Lesne has turned his sights to Dowland’s ayres. This beautifully planned programme shows the many facets of the composer’s persona – from his famed dolorousness and intense spiritual fervour to his more playful side, expressed in amorous ditties and vigorous dance pieces. As with Lesne’s previous recordings of English song, there are some idiosyncrasies and exaggerated mannerisms in his pronunciation which at times makes it hard to distinguish some of the words. But in every other respect Lesne’s plangent countertenor is the perfect vehicle for Dowland’s melancholic tones. The timbre and tessitura of his voice sit perfectly within the consort texture and, most importantly, Lesne’s interpretations are imbued with an innate musicality and sensitivity to the subtlest shades and nuances. The ayres are accompanied variously by viol consort or solo lute and there are also several purely instrumental numbers. The Ensemble Orlando Gibbons offers some perfectly poised playing. Individual lines are finely balanced, drawing out Dowland’s counterpoint, while the dance pieces are thrown off with great vitality and sharp articulation. The resonant recording adds gloss to the natural lustre of their sound. Kate Bolton