Dowland: The First Booke of Songes

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COMPOSERS: Dowland
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: The First Booke of Songes
PERFORMER: Rufus Müller (tenor), Christopher Wilson (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 135 DDD
Thurston Dart called 1597 ‘a year of wonders’ for English music: it saw the publication of various madrigal books, tutors, collections of vocal music from France and Italy, and Dowland’s First Booke of Songes, the first substantial collection of a genre that was to dominate English music for the next quarter-century – the lute-song. So successful was the First Booke that it was reprinted four times during the next decade, and several contemporary plays lift quotations from the texts Dowland set. All 21 songs have been included on this delightful disc (the only exclusion being the single lute solo).

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Some readers may have heard Rufus Müller’s marvellous portrayal of Evangelist in performances of the St Matthew Passion given in London and New York recently. He’s clearly a most intelligent singer with a warm, agile tenor, well suited to this repertoire, yet with a potential power that produces an intense undercurrent in the more weighty songs. His diction is impeccable, and he responds with great sensitivity to every nuance of these fine poems. (Using original pronunciation may have added a further dimension – perhaps next time?)

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Christopher Wilson’s distinctive, soft-toned lute playing goes from strength to strength: few players would handle this music better. Kate Bolton