Piece of the Month - January 2012
Any suggestions, corrections or other comments will be most welcome: just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Downloadable files are provided in Fronimo, Tab and PDF. To hear my own recording of one or more of the pieces just click on the MP3 files.
Robert Dowland (c.1591 - 1641)
The Varietie of Lute Lessons by Robert Dowland, published in 1610, was one of the first lute books to be made available in a facsimile edition, published by Schott in 1958. The association with John Dowland, who contributed articles on stringing and fretting, has added to its prestige. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to overlook the contribution of Robert (also the rather error-prone contribution of the typesetters). There are only three pieces in the collection which are attributed to Robert: the Pavin and Galliard dedicated to Sir Thomas Monson, and the Lady Clifton's Spirit. This last piece is a version of K.Darcies Spirite (Dd.2.11, f.58) by John Dowland, and Diana Poulton assumed that the attribution to Robert was an error - but I think there is a case to be made this is actually Robert's version of John's piece. Other pieces in the collection seem to show some influence of Robert's hand - of which more in a later article.
The dedicatee of the Pavin and Galliard, and of the whole collection, was Sir Thomas Monson (1564-1641) of Lincolnshire, a keen musician and patron of musicians. He seems to have been responsible for Robert's musical education in the years 1598-1606 when John Dowland was in Denmark. During the years 1613-1617 when Sir Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower (on suspicion of being involved in the Overbury murder) he was attended by Dr Thomas Campian, whose The Third and Fourth Booke of Ayres (1617) was dedicated to him (also Rosseter's A Book of Ayres, 1601 which included songs by Campian, and Robert Dowland's A Musicall Banquet, 1610).
The only other piece attributed to Robert is an Almande in the Board lute book (f.12v.), which is of particular interest because it is written in John's hand and contains many ornament signs, giving important clues as to contemporary performance practice (see my brief essay).
Sir Tho. Monson his Pavin: 12011.pdf; 12011.ft3; 12011.tab; 12011.mp3
Sir Thomas Monson his Galliard: 12012.pdf; 12012.ft3; 12012.tab
The Right Honorable the Lady Cliftons Spirit: 12013.pdf; 12013.ft3; 12013.tab
Almande: 12014.pdf; 12014.ft3; 12014.tab; 12014.mp3
Note on the recordings: the same seven-course lute (string length 673mm, made in 1982) was used for both the recordings. The Almande was recorded in July 2008 using all-gut strings and at a lower pitch than the other recording, which all used Nylgut stringing, apart from a Savarez KF string for the 5th course and a new prototype "stretchy" NGE string for the 6th, with the same loaded gut as before for the 7th course.
Critical commentary:Sir Tho. Monson his Pavin
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