Dowland: Fancyes

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Dowland
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Dowland
WORKS: Fancyes
PERFORMER: Nigel North (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557586
We’re not exactly short of fine Dowland playing what with the complete lute works from Jakob Lindberg and, even better, Paul O’Dette. But the prospect of a Nigel North set is something to drool over, and this first instalment doesn’t disappoint. Pre-eminently the lutenist’s lutenist, North is steeped in the music – and technically beyond reproach. Can anyone slip the colourist gears as smoothly? Every opening chord makes you sit up and pay attention; lazy listening is never an option.

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The heart and soul of Volume 1 beats to the inner journeying of the seven Fantasies, expressive vehicles for North’s freewheeling fantasy which embraces the contrapuntal corsetry with a lively suppleness. Joanna MacGregor called Dowland one of the great ‘blues’ artists of the 16th century and North does melancholy to the manner born; but the rest of the disc, in bowing to the theatre and acknowledging friends and patrons, permits an all-conquering lightness, twinkle and wit that was ever the flip side of Dowland’s coin. There’s nothing mundanely martial about Lord Strange’s March: North’s performance is shot through with bold assertions and confiding asides. When a simple march compels so utterly, you’re in the presence of elevated music-making indeed. And at bargain price, a steal! Paul Riley