ALBUM TITLE: Dowland
WORKS: Pavans, Galliards and Almains
PERFORMER: Nigel North (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.570449
Three discs in, it’s self-evident that Nigel North’s Dowland cycle sets a new benchmark. Vol. 1 was anchored in the fantasies, Vol. 2 tackled the ‘lachrimose’ Dowland, and Vol. 3 kicks off its shoes to propose an invitation to the dance. North fashions an imagined book of solo Pavans, Galliards and Almains – the terpsichorean threesome of the age – and dishes up the result with a flourish. There are accommodations along the way. The ‘Almain’, P51, whose authorship is questionable, is transposed to bring it nearer in spirit to Dowland, and North strips away the divisions on the ‘Pavana Doulant’ which may have been added by Johannes Mylius. But the resulting seven three-dance sets are illuminatingly contrived and despatched with effortless insight. Dowland was praised for the richness of his tone, but it’s hard to imagine even him outdoing the honeyed sumptuousness of North’s ‘Solus cum sola’ Pavan. Yet there’s always unparalleled emotional depth too, especially in the far-reaching ‘Pavana Johan Douland’. From sympathetic gravitas to benign smile, worldly-wise courtliness to sonorous swagger, North is a Dowland-ist for all seasons – and on Naxos, for all pockets!