To Dowland or not to Dowland

To Dowland or not to Dowland
Mike Fentross, lute
Zefir  ZEF9658. 62’52

The rather curious title, which seems to turn ‘Dowland’ into a verb, could perhaps have been ‘Dowland or not Dowland’, as the programme is made up of anonymous lute pieces from various manuscripts that, it is argued, are actually by Dowland. This assumption is based on research by archivist Andre Nieuwlaat who, working with lutenist Mike Fentross, made a selection of 15 pieces from the many possible examples by using “… musical intuition, by the essence of the pieces, and by constantly asking the question: do I recognise Dowland’s hand in this? The overall quality of the pieces to choose from was very impressive, and the answer to this question was: ‘ Yes, I recognise Dowland in these works, without a shadow of a doubt’. Dowland’s musical signature is unmistakable”.

The recording actually offers a two-pronged approach to lute music. You can very easily just luxuriate in the gorgeously delicate sound of the very fine lute-playing or, if you are a lute player and/or have a musicological approach, then you can read the detailed programme notes as well the on-line research and notes on the provenance of each piece. They can be found here.

I will not attempt an analysis of the arguments as to why each piece is by Dowland. The recording was released in May 2019, so that may already be the subject of a peer-reviewed academic journal. For me, this is perfectly acceptable as a delightful recording of some lovely music, very little of it even remotely familiar. The theme of Susanne un jour will be familiar from the many variation sets

The titles of the pieces included and their source are listed below.

Prelude (Mertel 1615 Praeludium 230)
Fantasia (Mertel 1615 Phantasia 67)

 In te Domine speravi (PL-Wrk 352 fol. 30r)
La Batalla (Barbarino p. 368, Thistlethwaite fol. 60r)
Fantasia (Mertel 1615 Phantasia 29)
Fantasia (Mertel 1615 Phantasia 41)
Prelude (Hirsch fol. 15r)
Fantasia (Hirsch fol. 67v)
Fancy (Marsh p. 230)
Preludium (Cosens fol. 27r)
Fantasia (Dd.2.11 fol. 16r)
Fantasia (Hirsch fol. 65v)
Fantasia (Mertel 1615 Phantasia 19)
Susanne un jour (Wickhambrook fol. 13v)
Preludium (Cosens fol. 24v)
My Mrs. Farewell (Board fol. 16r)