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Saturday morning quotes 7.14: Lachrimæ V

September 28, 2018

First published version of Lachrimæ, from Barley, 1596

We return to our series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares after an unplanned interruption with a few posts on the subject of Shakespeare.  For today’s post we revisit the lute solo versions of the Lachrimæ pavan thought to be Dowland’s inspiration for the 1604 collection for five viols—or violins—and lute, and indeed received widespread distribution and served to define the very substance of the composer’s public persona.  But as usual, assumptions tend to evolve when questioned.

We begin with the words of Dowland’s biographer, Diana Poulton:

“The pavan, ‘Lachrimæ’…, was one of those exceptional compositions which, from time to time, appear, and achieve an altogether extraordinary popularity.  In its original form as a lute solo it found its way into almost all the important English MS collections of the period and it appears in numerous Continental lute-books, both MS and printed.  Many of the copies, though purporting to be by Dowland, are very inaccurate and have divisions entirely different from Dowland’s own.”

Diana Poulton (John Dowland: His life and works, University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal., 2nd edition, 1982, p. 124.

The Continental published and manuscript versions of Lachrimæ indeed vary wildly in their divisions (melodically ornamented sectional repeats), and we will return to this point after discussion of English versions of the piece.

In point of fact, we don’t really know how Dowland would have supplied divisions because the only authoritative version of the piece is the unembellished reading that appears as the lute tablature part to “Lachrimæ Antiquæ”, the first of the seven thematic pavans published in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares.  The paucity of surviving lute solos that can truly be linked to Dowland is an important theme that emerges in the dissertation by David Tayler, The Solo Lute Music of John Dowland [large pdf], Department of Music, University of  California at Berkeley, published 1992, revised 2005.

“If we add to the three lute pieces in Dowland’s songbooks the piece in Robert Dowland’s Musicall Banquet and the four or five pieces in Dowland’s handwriting or with his autograph (not including the exercises for his students) we are left with a very small number relative to the very large total, numbering above a hundred pieces, to which Dowland’s name is attached.”

– Tayler, p. 4.

The “above a hundred pieces”, references the 103 pieces identified and edited by Diana Poulton and Basil Lamm in The Collected Lute Music of John Dowland, Faber Edition (1978 edition).  While it stretches credulity to discount the bulk of the repertory we attach to Dowland today, Tayler is absolutely correct in pointing out that, in the strictest terms, very few lute solos we know and love can be positively connected to Dowland, and fewer still have divisions we can authoritatively attribute to the lutenist-composer.

Providing a bit of historical context, Tayler describes Dowland in terms of what today’s marketers would define as a “brand”.

“For a variety of reasons, including his skill as a player as well as a composer, Dowland’s name acquired a life of its own, as did Lachrimae, his trademark. It is easy to imagine a situation in which amateur players, seeking the best and most fashionable pieces for their lutebooks, acquired “Dowland” pieces from professional players or teachers who had at best only a tenuous connection with the composer. What they got was for other reasons than transmission not likely to have been fashioned entirely by Dowland himself. Unlike the vocal genres, in which a tendency to transmit the basic text unadorned had been almost transformed into a moral duty by Byrd’s several printed strictures about “the carelessness of scribes in making copies,” the lute repertory not only allowed but also encouraged a certain contributory process on the part of players and copyists which resulted in changes to the texts. These pieces, then, tended to circulate in copies, each bearing the additions or personal stylistic features of the copier or player. It seems likely that this social process of disseminating and personalizing works (not all of which may even have been originally by Dowland) is largely responsible for sheer amount of works attributed to Dowland in the modern edition, [Poulton & Lamm’s Collected Lute Music]…”

– Tayler, pp. 8 – 9.

“The degree to which any piece labelled “John Dowland” was actually composed or controlled in all its details by the famous lutanist himself is always under question. The attempt of this study is to draw attention to this situation by taking a highly critical attitude towards each piece. The adjective “authoritative” is reserved for those texts which can reasonably be argued to have evaded the process of elaboration and expansion referred to above or for texts which come to us directly from Dowland’s hand.”

– Tayler, p. 10.

Tayler’s points are well-taken: Since the bulk of the lute solos ascribed to Dowland appear in manuscript or printed sources that do not clearly convey the composer’s authorship, we are forced to speculate how accurately those versions represent Dowland’s intent.  Although there survive a few manuscript lutebooks that bear Dowland’s signature, it is a fact that he did not own up to one single version of the Lachrimæ pavan for lute solo in those books.  However, Dowland did in his own words describe the printed versions in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares as his Lute-lessons which had received composer’s “last foile and polishment”.

For more information on the transmission of Dowland’s famous luto solo, and its final adaptation for Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, we refer to the comprehensive study by Michael Gale and Tim Crawford, King’s College, London John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ in its Continental Context.

“…Dowland’s frequent travelling and his fame as a performer resulted in a wide dissemination of his works overseas. Peter Holman has suggested that the 5-part consort version of the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan in Kassel [manuscript] is a pre-publication copy of the LoST [Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares] version, perhaps circulated by Dowland around 1594-5 when he was in the service of Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse (1572-1632), and there is no reason to suppose that his lute pieces were not similarly distributed. Another route of transmission would be through the lutebooks of travelling noblemen (such as Lord Herbert of Cherbury, whose lutebook happens to contain a late copy of the English G minor version); if foreign pieces were added to such a book whilst the owner was abroad, it is quite possible that some of the English contents would also have been copied by local musicians.”

“It is interesting to note that there are no surviving Continental sources of the early English A minor lute setting. (In fact, there are no Continental lute versions in A minor at all; even the lute part to LoST, which constitutes a perfectly respectable solo setting in its own right, is not amongst those LoST parts reprinted by Van den Hove in his Delitiae Musice). The G minor version, however, fared slightly better, being both directly copied (although, curiously, without the divisions so popular in England) and used as the basis for further recomposition. The version in Thysius (compiled ?1620s) is a testament to the longevity of this version, being a very close copy of a piece that was by now well over a quarter of a century old. The adjacent page to this includes another lute part apparently in D minor; it is presumably a duet part for a different sized instrument pitched a fifth lower or a fourth higher, unless it is a simple consort part for a D minor setting analogous with those in Morley and Cambridge Consort.”

Gale and Crawford point out that the instrumental setting of “Lachrimæ Antiquæ the first piece in Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares (1604), appears to have been derived from the song setting of  “Flow my teares fall from your springs” from Dowland’s Second Booke (1600) rather than from any version of the pavan for solo lute.

“It was as a song, however, that the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan really seems to have become the ubiquitous ‘hit’ of its age. ‘Flow my teares’ was published in 2nd Booke (1600) as two texted vocal parts with a lute accompaniment, although it enjoyed a lengthy life as a solo continuo song without the lute part… Indeed, the transmission of the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan throughout the seventeenth century can be understood as stemming almost exclusively from the publication of this song. There are perhaps two main reasons for this, the most obvious of which is the size of its print-run; one thousand copies was immense for this period (and the publishers presumably expected to sell every copy). Secondly, the scoring of the song arrangement transformed the piece from a somewhat tricky lute piece (or something that required an instrumental ensemble to perform it) into a contrapuntally coherent two-voice entity, despite the written-out lute part. Thus, not only was the ‘Lachrimae’ pavan more readily available as a text, but it was ironically now more accessible to performers without a lute at hand. As we shall see, the simple two-part reduction offered great potential to both composers and performers.”

“An early example of the exploitation of this model stems from none other than Dowland himself. The ‘Lachrimae Antiquae’ of LoST (and its related versions in Kassel and Melville) is clearly based upon the two vocal parts from ‘Flow’, the inner parts presumably worked into place afterwards. Several clues suggest this dependancy upon the song, not least a handful of melodic details which mirror the syllabic patterns of the texted cantus part (e.g. the reiteration of the melody note of bar 3iv (‘ev-er’) and the exquisite setting of ‘sad in-fam-y’ in bar 6). The previously-discussed auxiliary note in bar 2, so typical of the English lute versions but a notable absentee in ‘Flow’, is also omitted here and, in most instances, the registral shifts and use of accidentals in LoST match those of ‘Flow’. Craig Monson has convincingly argued that a similar creative process resulted in ‘Mr Dowland’s Lachrimae’, a D minor consort setting attributed to William Wigthorpe, as well as a consort-song version of ‘Sorrow stay’ in the same source; both appear to be based upon the respective vocal parts printed in 2nd Booke with inner parts added later.”

– Michael Gale and Tim Crawford, John Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’ in its Continental Context 

As we pointed out in our first post in this series, while the cycle of the seven Lachrimæ pavans had their own artistic unity, Dowland’s 1604 publication, Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, complete with the additional ensemble dances, was obviously influenced by Anthony Holborne’s collection of dance music, Pavans, Galliards, Almains and other short Aeirs, published in 1599.  Holborne’s publication of dance music included the pavan “Ploravit” (No. 49), which opens by quoting Dowland’s Lachrimæ theme.  Dowland acknowleged the favor the following year in his Second Booke by dedicating “I saw my Lady weepe”, the first song of the publication, “To the most famous, Anthony Holborne”.  It is of no little significance that this dedication is attached to the song that immediately preceeds “Flow my teares fall from your springs”.  Holborne was a gentleman of Queen Elizabeth’s court, a position Dowland coveted, and Dowland appears to have expended quite a bit of creative energy exploring every possible means to gain his own royal appointment.  Perhaps even including spying.

Peter Hauge has identified correspondence between Dowland and English diplomat Stephen Lesieur, wherein Dowland is explicitly asked to keep his ears open while performing his duties at the Danish court, and to report back home.  The correspondence intimates that there would be a reward forthcoming.

“It is conceivable that he had already started ordering the collection during the winter of 1602, after or at the same time that he sent his third book of airs to the printer in London…Elizabeth was still alive and it was during this period that [Dowland] was asked to procure information for the English delegation in Bremen…Perhaps the original intention was to dedicate Lachrimæ to Elizabeth, in a gesture suggested by Lesieur’s promise of a reward and introduction to the queen, on condition that Dowland undertake and be a successful informant.”

– Peter Hauge, “Dowland in Denmark 1598 – 1606: a Rediscovered Document”, The Lute, Volume XLI, 2001, p. 16.

Hauge proposes that Dowland may have originally intended to dedicate the Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares collection to Elizabeth before her untimely death in 1603, and that by shifting the dedication to Queen Anne, sister of his employer Christian IV of Denmark, it may finally have opened the portal wide enough for Dowland to get his foot in the door for the long-awaited court appointment in England.

More to come in our next post.

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