John Dowland

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John Dowland (1563-1626), English (possibly Irish born) composer, lutenist and singer, is recognised as the greatest writer and exponent of the lute song and associated music during about the first quarter of the 17th century. Whilst not the most prolific of the composers of these songs (ayres), his ability to match the emotions of the verse with his accompanying music for the lute in often unconventional, frequently intense, but always appropriate ways, was unmatched at his time, and rarely since. As such, he can be seen as the forerunner of the great lieder/art-song writers of the 19th and 20th centuries, and a direct forebear of the songwriters of the English Revival in the 20th century.

A melancholic and darkly preoccupied man, much of his music is concerned with dolorous feelings, and even amongst the dances and gaiety of his court pieces there stands his consort composition, the intensely unhappy “Lachrimae” or “seaven tears”. Another work is entitled “Semper Dowland, semper dolens” (“Always Dowland, always unhappy” Although of Protestant upbringing, he converted to Catholicism and became concerned with sin and the unhappy state of the world.

References:

“Oxford Companion to Music”

“The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music”

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