Lived1563 – 1626
Mostly in London and Denmark
Best Known For Lachrimae, lute works, lute songs
Similar To Anthony Holborne, Robert Johnson, Thomas Campion, William Byrd
It begins with a simple descending figure; languorous as a sigh, sorrowful as a teardrop. With the first four anguish-filled notes, the opening of Dowland’s Lachrimaepavan for solo lute creates a dolorous earworm that would burrow its way into the Elizabethan psyche and beyond. Copied and elaborated by fellow composers as a shorthand for grief, it proved a personal thumbprint throughout Dowland’s own music, who used it as self-referentially as Shostakovich would his musical ‘DSCH’ cipher based on the letters of his name.
For all the manifold successes of the age, and the allure of a New World opening its doors, ‘melancholy’ was the Elizabethan way, nurtured by political, social and religious unrest. Dowland, born a year ahead of Shakespeare, was its...