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.

John Dowland, Composer of the Month John Dowland.

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...

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now or log in to continue reading.