Sara Stowe: soprano
Lewis Spring: counter-tenor
Lynda Sayce: lute, viol
Matthew Spring: lute, viol
This concert explores the music of two of the leading lutenist composers of the English Golden Age. Both men became royal employees and were regarded as leading musicians of the Jacobean Court. Songs from John Daniel’s exquisite and highly poetic book of 1606 is contrasted with the more directly emotional airs of John Dowland. Though Daniel’s single publication as a song composer is small by comparison to the four books of Dowland, Daniel’s songs are of no lesser quality. Likewise, Dowland’s large repertoire of instrumental music (much of it for the lute) dwarfs that of Daniel. Yet Daniel’s few pieces have an inventiveness and beauty that makes them justly famous.
Our concert intersperses groups of lute songs with solos and lute duets by Daniel and Dowland. The sound of two lutes was developed early on – it was already popular by the fifteenth century. Used both for teaching and improvising the English duet repertoire that emerged is one the least known jewels of the Jacobean repertoire. Dowland is justly famous for his solo lute music and we include such masterpieces as Dowland’s Lacrimae Pavane and his version of Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home.
Daniel was the brother of the court poet Samuel Daniel, whose works he edited. Daniel’s upbringing and education in the West Country ended with a degree at Oxford University in 1604 and followed by work in the great houses of England – he was lute tutor to the Thynes of Longleat. He was at one time employed by William Grene of Milton as music tutor to his daughter Anne. His song book marks the peak of the lute song period and is dedicated to Anne, who was sixteen when the work was published. Daniel’s book is specific in its requirement for the viol to be present along with the lute and for the viol to have its own independent lines in places where it does not follow the bass line.
Dowland’s songbooks are varied in their approach and can be sung in a variety of combinations with lutes, viols and voices. His style is at once more cosmopolitan and more progressive. His education as part of the English embassy in Paris, his long periods as lutenist to Christian IV of Denmark, and his travels on the continent brought him fame abroad; and a reputation on the continent that few British musicians have ever achieved in their own lifetime.