ALBUM TITLE: Dowland.Britten
WORKS: Lute Songs.Nocturnal after John Dowland
PERFORMER: Mark Padmore (tenor), Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Craig Ogden (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA6764
Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Kenny have been open-minded enough to explore a couple of Dowland’s songs via a theatrical gloss found in the library of Christ Church Oxford. So it’s not surprising that they’ve also admitted a more substantial ‘filtered’ spectre to the feast: Britten’s Nocturnal, a night music for solo guitar meditating on ‘Come, heavy sleep’ with a fluidity that embraces shadowy nightmare as well as the sweetest of dreams. Padmore provides context by singing Dowland’s original song before Craig Ogden steals in, alert to the Nocturnal’s every nuance, and with a palette of colours both caressing and disquieting. Ogden yields nothing in supple expressivity to the work’s first interpreter, Julian Bream. Completing the frame, ‘Flow my Tears’ is beautifully inflected, though finer still is ‘In Darkness let me Dwell’ where in the final bars Padmore’s enrapt engagement seems to conjure up the very chill of death. Not that all is ‘Semper Dowland, semper dolens’. There might be a debonair swish to the ‘theatrical’ version of ‘I must Complain’, but Dowland’s instinctive preference for something plainer is arguably more virile and eloquent. Occasionally Padmore’s vowels are over-plummy, his vibrato predictable, but with Elizabeth Kenny’s insightful support, there is an involvement which even surpasses Paul Agnew’s superb Dowland recordings of a decade ago.