Taking his inspiration from everything he discovered around him, Germany’s ultimate Romantic lavished his talents upon them, taking music into completely new territory, says Julian Haylock.
Lived 1563 – 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 Lachrimae pavan 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. 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 musical high priest. The pavan Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens (Always Dowland, Always Grieving) makes a natural soulmate for Lachrimae, and songs such as In Darkness Let me Dwell or I Saw My Lady Weep incarnate the spirit of an age in which poet and cleric John Donne had himself painted in