A Fancy; A Dream; A Fantasia; Preludium; Lachrimae; Forlorn Hope Fancy, etc
Bor Zuljan (lute)
Ricercar RIC425 62:37 mins
In his debut solo album, Slovenian Bor Zuljan concentrates largely on Dowland’s Fantasies – works whose complex counterpoint, exploratory freedom and expressive rhetoric embrace a range of emotions and affects. Zuljan’s eclectic background as a guitarist, oud player and lutenist, combined with musical tastes that range from medieval to jazz, makes him highly responsive to the varied hues of Dowland’s palette. He roams from the darkly introspective opening Fantasia to the bright and breezy Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe; from the evanescent Dream and wandering stream-of-consciousness Fancies to the fleet, taught rhythms of the dance-inspired pieces. Throughout, he plays with the antitheses of ‘durezza, mollezza, asprezza, dolcezza’ (harshness, softness, bitterness, sweetness) – the lutenist’s rhetorical tools, according to Dowland’s contemporary Vincenzo Galilei.
Zuljan plays an eight-course ‘tenor’ lute from which he draws a range of colours and timbres – here limpid, there muted; he even seems to turn the lute into an exotic-sounding Arabic oud at times. Set in an open and airy acoustic, the close-placed microphones pick out the exquisite ornaments and subtly nuanced details – and also the finger movements on the fretboard, though they are not overly intrusive.