Dowland: Complete Works for Lute, Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Dowland
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Complete Works for Lute, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Paul O’Dette (lute, orpharion)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907160 DDD
Lutenists and Dowland devotees will no doubt welcome Jakob Lindberg’s dauntless recording of the complete solo lute music – over 90 pieces and around four and a half hours’ listening. But at nearly £40 for the set, first-time buyers may prefer to try Paul O’Dette’s single disc (the first in his project to record the complete lute works). Both artists are technically superb, but they have strikingly different musical personalities. Lindberg is more introspective, drawing out the sobriety of a composer who referred to himself as ‘semper Dowland semper dolens’. This rather studied approach is well suited to Dowland’s weighty Pavans, but sounds too deliberate in the livelier dances.

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O’Dette takes a more extrovert stance, though he too is not without his darker side when appropriate. Most refreshing is his imaginative interpretation of the notes on the page: playing with the intuitive freedom of a jazz musician, O’Dette really captures the improvisatory spirit of Dowland’s age, without overstepping its stylistic confines. He is helped, too, by a more resonant acoustic, whereas Lindberg’s drier recording means he has to work hard to sustain Dowland’s wonderful melodic lines. Kate Bolton