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Saturday morning quotes 7.15: Lachrimæ VI

dowland_lachrimaeSo far our series on Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares has offered a discussion on the origins of the Lachrimæ motif, a survey of the pavans for lute solo that were and were not the basis for the seven pavans for viols or violins and lute, a few theories on the Latin names, the symbolism and the overarching meaning of the set, and we touched upon a few of Dowland’s possible motives for publishing the music.

There are so many facets to the gem that is Dowland’s 1604 collection of instrumental consort music that we could very likely devote an entire year’s worth of weekly posts to the subject and still miss some important aspect that deserves thorough discussion.  But our post today will temporarily depart from the arcane historical details of who, what and why, and deal with the music as it sounds.

We present a survey of a personal selection of the many available recordings of the music, and with the information digested and presented thus far in this series, we discuss how modern interpretations may or may not take into consideration early 17th century performance ideals.

While taking the time to listen through all the available recordings may seem a bit of an indulgence, it happens that we own a handful of these recordings and have been intimately familiar with the performance details for some years.  Other recordings were tracked down from a fairly comprehensive list of some 41 available vinyl LPs or CDs (remember those?).  In the case of the recordings below, we were able to find each and every one on a platform which, while both completely legal and ubiquitous (our recordings are there too), will not be mentioned in these pages because said platform is the very embodiment of evil and is the cause of much wailing and gnashing of teeth in our household.

For all of the recordings, we chose to listen to and compare each ensemble’s interpretation of the first pavan in the collection, Lachrimæ Antiquæ, which offers a very clear example of the ensemble’s overall approach to Dowland’s music.  As a primary point of comparison, we take the pulse of the ensemble and list their timing of Lachrimæ Antiquæ.  While it may seem unfair to examine a limited number of the recordings under a microscope, we do so with the best of intentions and to highlight what we see as important positive—or questionable—interpretive choices.

We begin on a positive note with our favorite choice:

Ensemble Daedalus, Roberto Festa, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Accent 98128 D.  This recording contains the set of seven Lachrimæ pavans without the additional dances.  The interpretation is sublimely elegant and nuanced, the performance is unhurried, and the recorded sound is nothing less than wonderful.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a suitably relaxed and utterly melancholy pulse that honors the intent of the music, and at 5:44 it wins the race as the longest recorded performance.  An absolute favorite.

Second on our list of favorites is The Dowland Consort/Jakob Lindberg, John Dowland: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, BIS LP – 315.  The recording features an excellent ensemble balance, with the lute up front and attractively audible.  The recorded sound reveals a lushness of character in the lower-pitched viols (A=390?), which lends a certain gravitas to what is a very musical interpretation, but the playing is just a bit more rushed than one would wish, with Lachrimæ Antiquæ coming in at 3:50.

Next is Dowland: Lachrimae, Consort of Musicke – Anthony Rooley, L’Oiseau Lyre 421 477.  This recording was part of the monumental project that resulted in a collection of the complete works of Dowland, and the Consort of Musicke offers an excellent performance that allows the melancholy pulse of the music to emerge.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given 4:44, which is a minute less than our first choice, but worthy of an honorable mention.

It is always interesting to hear what sort of interpretation Hespèrion XX – Jordi Savall will offer when presenting a program of English music.  The ensemble is known for its passionate performances, and indeed Dowland: Lachrimae, Astrée 8701 is beautifully played and excellently recorded.  But the ensemble has an idiosyncratic approach to pulse, which is absolutely vital to almost any music of the period, be it ever so subtle.  Lachrimæ Antiquæ comes in at a reasonable 4:42.

John Dowland’s Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, The Rose Consort of Viols, Saydisc/ Amon RA CD-SAR 55.  The set of seven pavans is beautifully recorded but the performance is a bit bouncy for such melancholy music that was surely not intended for dance (as opposed to the dance tunes that comprise the balance of the publication).  Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a springy 4:04.

Fretwork, Dowland: Lachrimae, Virgin Veritas 45005.  The excellent ensemble offers a well-balanced sound with an interpretation that can be described as smooth, if a little fast for our taste. Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given 4:17 of breathing space.

Next we have two recordings that opt for violins instead of viols.  Seaven Teares: Music of John Dowland, The King’s Noyse – David Douglass / Paul O’Dette, Harmonia Mundi USA 907275, offers the seven Lachrimæ pavans interspersed with some of Dowland’s more melancholy ayres.  The violins lend a sprightly and cheerful air to the proceedings, and with Lachrimæ Antiquæ coming in at 4:09, it feels as though someone is pushing the beat.  Dowland: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, Parley of Instruments / Paul O’Dette, Hyperion CDA66637, is beautifully played but offers a rather chirrupy performance somewhat lacking in the essential gravitas—someone seems to be pushing the beat here as well, and Lachrimæ Antiquæ is given a brief 3:58.

Parley of Instruments director Peter Holman writes:

“According to the title page [the Lachrimae collection] is ‘set forth for the Lute, Viols, or Violins, in five parts’.  It is normally played today on viols, but professional string groups would have played sets of viols and violins as a matter of course, choosing the most appropriate according to circumstances.  It is unlikely that Dowland intended the two families to be combined in a mixed consort; the normal practice was to use complete sets of instruments as alternatives on a musical menu, rather than as ingredients in a single dish.  The whole collection can be played as it stands on the standard five-part violin consort of the time, consisting of a single violin three violas and bass—the arrangement preserved well into the Baroque period by the French royal orchestra, the Vingt-quatre Violons.  But one of the pieces, M. Thomas Collier his Galliard, has two equal treble parts and requires the more modern scoring of two violins, two violas and bass, and the situation is complicated by the fact that, with one exception, the pieces divide into two high- and low-pitched groups, about a fourth apart.  The former (all the lighter pieces except Sir John Souch his Galliard) work well as they stand, but the rest are consistently too low to be effective on violins.  Therefore we have transposed them up a fourth, which brings the seven ‘passionate pavans’ into D minor, the key of the earliest consort settings of Lachrimae Antiquae.”

– Peter Holman, notes to CD

To summarize observations on these recordings using violins, in other recorded performances the lower-pitched viols lend a melancholy air of gravitas without even trying, and an ensemble has quite a bit of work to do in order to imbue the music with appropriate melancholy if choosing an alternative performance on what were described historically as “sprightly” violins.  Transposing up a fourth further robs the music of its melancholy character.  That said, the Parley of Instruments performs well, just rather fast and bouncy for a rendering of Dowland’s most melancholy music.

Last on our list is Dowland: Lachrimae or Seven Tears, Phantasm, Linn CKD 527, where Lachrimæ Antiquæ is permitted a lifespan of 4:02.  We obviously have an alternative point of view, since Phantasm has won prestigious awards for this recording, but our point of view is certainly thoroughly informed and we have taken the time to gain a deep understanding of the context of Dowland’s music.  In this recording, the sense of ensemble, the dynamics, phrasing, articulation are well planned and executed in a controlled manner, but likewise in a manner that evokes the aesthetic of the modern string quartet rather than that of the early music ensemble. While this sort of presentation will invariably draw praise from reviewers whose ears are likely more accustomed to the lush sound of Brahms than the quaint little aural museum that is early music, one wishes for a little less modern professionalism.

We hear excellent musicianship and Linn’s unimpeachable recorded sound, but we miss the sense of discovery transparently transmitted to the listener as the individual instruments engage in an organic collaborative interpretation of Dowland’s melancholy.  Instead, what we hear is the product of a strong personality and a modern professionalism that has more to say about 2018 than about 1604.  But we also react to an all too prevalent approach to the symbolic content of the Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares set.

Phantasm’s director Lawrence Dreyfus in the notes to his recording:

“Dowland dedicated Lachrimae to Anne of Denmark – Queen of England and Scotland – whom he praises as an ideal amalgam of three pagan goddesses: Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. Having invoked a female trinity, Dowland can scarcely have intended a reference to Christianity.”

This modern point of view may fit well with Dreyfus’ 21st-century approach to Dowland’s music, but he seems to have entirely overlooked the more nuanced and integrated sensibility of the Tudor/Stuart mind.  Of course reading and quoting from the Classics (likely in Golding’s translation) was an essential component of an Elizabethan grammar school education. But familiarity with historical mythology did not negate the firm presence and daily practice of religious ritual that was the norm for Dowland and all who breathed the same air in 1604.  Dismissing this sort of important contextual information is nothing other than the imprinting of a modern aesthetic on the past.

A scholar risks credibility by deliberately cancelling out the inconvenient elements of history that may not align with his 21st-century viewpoint.  This amounts to what we see as a pervasive modern “secularization” of early music, a theme we will explore further in future posts.


Saturday morning quotes 7.14: Lachrimæ V


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.

Collaborative Shakespeare II

Florio 2Having written and posted a piece on Shakespeare and his collaborators in great haste, we find it necessary to add a few additional points that may have been glossed over in the previous post.

The first point of clarification has to do with John Florio, pictured to the left, and his participation in editing material in Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623.  Significantly, Florio was also brother-in-law to  Samuel and John Danyel, John being the noted lutenist-composer and Samuel the noted poet.  Florio and both brothers were luminaries among the circle who explored the themes of melancholy, light and darkness, patronized by Lucy, Countess of Bedford, a circle that also included John Donne, Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, and John Dowland, to name a few.

Florio is an important literary figure in his own right, and his association with the Danyels and the Countess of Bedford’s musical/literary circle has been mentioned in previous posts, including our feature on the Willow Song.  Perhaps the topic will be featured in greater depth in a future post.

The second topic we address has to do with a computer analysis conducted years ago, a study that purportedly puts the matter of Shakespeare authorship to rest.  As far as we can tell, this study is titled, Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare? A Computer-Aided Analysis by Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza, Claremont McKenna College, dated April 7, 1991.

While one does not wish to disparage the authors’ research methods, model for analysis, nor their conclusions, it is important to note that any study that attempts to take something as ephemeral as language, even in the form of the written word, and establish parameters to analyze the use of that language by occurrence of keywords or phrases is doomed to produce results that must focus on the mechanical aspects rather than quality of artistic expression.

Turning great prose and poetry into data may excite those with an analytical bent, but language is full of nuance, and keywords or patterns that are extracted from their context and subjected to analysis will produce results that utterly destroy the meaning and the subtlety of the whole, turning a poem into nothing more than a collection of letters and words.  It’s likely that the authors of the study in question knew this at the outset, but proceeded with the task at hand with the tools available to them and with the best of intentions.

Elliott and Valenza’s study divided segments of text into blocks and counted 52 keywords in each block, choosing “middling common words such as ‘about’, ‘again’, ‘ways’, and ‘words’”.  Rather than counting keyword occurrences, the study measured:

“…patterns of deviation from a writer’s normal rates of word frequency. [The modes] measure the way an author uses, or avoids using, words together. In Shakespeare’s poems, modal analysis has revealed a few very strong, characteristic modes, quickly tailing off into many weak modes. All 90 blocks of Shakespeare’s poems, and a block or two of sonnets taken from his plays, show the same characteristic pattern, while many blocks of other authors do not.”

The authors of the study examined hyphenated compound words (HCWs) and total relative clauses (TRCs), and produced rudimentary graphs that depict line-ending trends in Shakespeare’s plays, and other factors such as the frequency of feminine endings.  Conclusions were presented objectively:

“Our conclusion from the Clinic was that Shakespeare fit within a fairly narrow, distinctive profile under our best tests. If his poems were written by a committee, it was a remarkably consistent committee. If they were written by any of the claimants we tested, it was a remarkably inconsistent claimant…We do not claim to have said the last word on this subject, nor to have solved the Shakespeare authorship mystery. But, if it strains credulity to suppose that Will Shakspere, the Stratford grain dealer, could have written Shakespeare’s poems and plays, it also strains credulity to suppose that people like [the Earl of] Oxford, with entirely different stylistic idiosyncrasies from Shakespeare, could have been the true authors of his poems and plays.”

Again, the authors of the study appear to have constructed a reasonable model for analysis with the tools available to them at the time, and they presented their results in an objective manner.  But even the authors of the study will admit that this does in no way represent the final word on the issue.  There are far too many factors to consider to say that this or any other mechanical analysis of the works of Shakespeare will offer the final word on the identity of the author.

If John Florio was indeed responsible for editing a substantial portion of the text in the First Folio of 1623, then any objective researcher will admit that the source material has been tainted beyond recognition.  There survives exactly zero text in Shakespeare’s hand in manuscript form, so we will never have an untainted sample to establish a baseline of text by the “real” Shakespeare in order to compare.  Those of us who edit early music from historical source material know this to be true.  When will the literary experts catch on?

Collaborative Shakespeare


I really don’t have time for this.  But having been subjected elsewhere to that particularly distasteful sniping style of unfocused tit-for-tat technique common to our modern computer keyboard commando, I am compelled to clarify a premise on this forum.

People love to argue about William Shakespeare; the person, the writer, the authenticity, the works.  I am not one of those people.  Deep down, I really don’t care who wrote the works that are today attributed to William Shakespeare.  But as a scientist (one course away from completing a degree in chemistry when I switched to music, a move I sometimes question), I care about things like logic and reality.  Likewise, I care about truth, and it is a well established fact that the public is prone to believe myths and untruths they are fed, whether handed down as folklore or deliberately funneled through the sewerpipe to a gullible public for whatever reason.

If you are reading this, you should pause for a moment and check out the book by Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928).  This short book is available in modern edition (complete with the many original typos) with a brilliant foreword by Mark Crispin Miller that sets the context.  In a nutshell, Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was truly the architect of the modern science of propaganda, and he understood very well that the public could be sold any idea if packaged effectively.

The idea of selling the public a popular myth is not new.  Elizabeth I created an image that was effectively packaged and sold to her subjects as the Virgin Queen, and they bought it wholesale.  John Dowland created and sold a public persona as Jo : Dolandi di Lachrimæ, with his musical display of tears and sighs, and his motto “Semper Dowland, semper dolens”.  The truth is that it’s unverifiable but seriously questionable whether Elizabeth remained chaste her entire life, and Dowland was described in The History of the Worthies of England by Thomas Fuller as follows: “A cheerful person he was, passing his days in lawful merriment…”.  These myths were harmless bits of propaganda that in the first case pacified the public and in the second case prevented a lutenist-composer from starving.  But propaganda nevertheless.

So why do we buy the image of Shakespeare the lone genius who churned out reams of perfect poetry and plays that are of an astounding depth?  It’s an inspiring story, but it seems there is such scant evidence of the man’s actual life that it’s no wonder some question the man and the myth.  In Is Shakespeare Dead?, Mark Twain aptly observed, “How curious and interesting is the parallel—as far as poverty of biographical details is concerned—between Satan and Shakespeare…They are the best-known unknown persons that have ever drawn breath upon the planet.”

The first printed references that appear to connect William Shakespeare the player to William Shakespeare the playwright appeared in the First Folio, published in 1623—seven years after his reported death.  For the published collection, texts were collated and edited by John Heminge and Henry Condell, who have been identified as Shakespeare’s fellow players.  Eighteen of the 36 plays in the First Folio were printed in separate individual editions prior to 1623.  In The Real Shakespeare: Retrieving the Early Years, 1564-1594, Yale University Press (1997), Eric Sams confronts the assumption that the playwright produced finished plays that needed no revision, and the silly idea that the sainted Shakespeare had nothing to do with the earlier “bad” quartos.  Like any writer, Shakespeare, whoever he was, very likely revised his plays—and he very likely had help.

From an objective point of view, we have very little that connects the material in the First Folio with our deceased author, other than editorial sales talk.  To observe the editorial evolution of Shakespeare’s work, one need only take a gander at examples and extracts from earlier printed versions.

Perhaps the façade is beginning to craze just a little because The New Oxford Shakespeare now lists Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593) as the co-author of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Parts I, II, and III.  Another presumed collaborator is the brilliant lexicographer and translator John Florio (c. 1553 – 1625), who appears to have had a hand in editing the First Folio:

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Florio’s possible involvement with the Folio is that we may never know its true extent. As Othello says in lines added to the Folio: “I thinke my Wife be honest, and thinke she is not.” While with plays such as Hamlet, Othello and King Lear we can compare the Folio against the quarto, for other plays – such as Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest and Macbeth – we cannot. Half of Shakespeare’s works were published for the first time in the Folio; the question remains whether they were subject to Florio’s “wary correction”. Our knowledge of changes made to the quartos, as well as Florio’s treatment of Boccaccio and Montaigne, suggests that there is a strong chance that they were. And yet we have no sure way of knowing. We cannot tell for certain whether the words were written by John Florio or by William Shakespeare.”

– Saul Frampton, “Who edited Shakespeare?”, The Guardian, Friday 12 Jul 2013.

Florio translated the Essais of Michel de Montaigne into truly engaging prose that rivals the originals, and we constantly refer to his Italian-English dictionary, A Worlde of Wordes, published in 1598.

Other specialists are beginning to acknowledge that works for the theater are collaborative and the end result is a staged play that breathes life into words that otherwise lay lifeless on the page, no matter who wrote them.  Mark Lawson seems slightly uneasy to report that it has been proposed that author Thomas Middleton wrote significant sections of All’s Well That End’s Well.

“The work of Taylor and Lavagnino and of James Shapiro, in his brilliant book Contested Will, has radically changed my attitude to Shakespeare on page and stage, and seems to me to raise significant questions about the approaches of the educational and theatrical industries in Britain. As Shapiro sets out in the final chapter of his book, the point is not that Oxford, Bacon or Elizabeth I secretly wrote the plays of Shakespeare, but that Elizabethan theatre was fundamentally collaborative in a way that the sole focus on Shakespeare has left most professors and producers reluctant to acknowledge.”

– Mark Lawson, “Let’s face it: Shakespeare had help”, The Guardian, Tuesday 1 May 2012.

Shakespeare enthusiasts tend to get hot under the collar whenever the orthodox narrative is questioned for any reason, and we count many Shakespeare specialists among our friends.  But like trumpeting one’s politics or religious beliefs, we usually avoid discussion of the topic, or at least regarding the details.  Whatever story you choose to believe, it is quite likely that the collected works attributed to William Shakespeare were written by and refined over time by many hands.  That’s all.

Saturday morning quotes 7.13: Lachrimæ IV

Henry Peacham, Minerva Britanna, London 1612

“Hei mihi quod vidi”, Henry Peacham, Minerva Britanna, London 1612

This is the fourth in our series on John Dowland’s important work of instrumental music, Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, published in 1604.  While the beauty and immediacy of the music is more or less easily grasped by performers and non-specialists alike, the order, the deeper meaning and the overarching concept of Dowland’s work has lain in obscurity for the past 400 years.  Just like many Shakespearean puns and allusions, a modern sensibility will admit the sounds but not comprehend their meaning let alone their context.  Fortunately, we have the benefit of the probing work of a few intrepid musicological explorers to guide us toward understanding.

David Pinto, known for his research and meticulous editorial work on sources of music for bowed instruments, has published along with lutenist Lynda Sayce a modern edition of Dowland’s Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares for Fretwork Editions (FE26: Lachrimæ by John Dowland, edited by Lynda Sayce with David Pinto).  But Pinto’s work extends far beyond the arrangement of notes on the page, and he has arrived at a convincing theory for the meaning of Dowland’s Latin titles for each of the seven Lachrimæ pavans.  We quote Peter Holman’s concise explanation of David Pinto’s interpretation.

“Recently, David Pinto has proposed an orthodox religious interpretation of the Latin titles, taking his cue from the connection between ‘Antiquæ’ and the Lassus Penitential Psalms.  He suggests that the tears are those of the penitent, starting with those caused by original sin (‘Antiquæ’), and the subsequent sins of fallen mankind (‘Antiquæ Novæ’).  His woes (‘Gementes’) and grief (‘Tristes’) force him into apostasy (‘Coactæ’).  But his penitent soul wakes to the love of God (‘Amantis’), and is redeemed by divine compassion (‘Veræ’). This is an attractive idea, not least because it helps to explain the enigmatic oxymoronic title ‘Antiquæ Novæ’, the ‘new old tears’.  He suggests that it refers to St. Augustine’s famous phrase ‘pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova’ (‘O thou Beauty both so ancient and so fresh’), a reference to the ‘old yet new’ beauty of God, the implication being that the ‘old-new’ tears represent the renewal of original sin in every fallen mortal.  His proposal also has an interesting autobiographical dimension: he implies that the penitent is Dowland himself, and that ‘Coactæ’ (literally ‘enforced tears’) is concerned with his moment of apostasy from his Catholic faith in the 1595 letter to Cecil.”

– Peter Holman, Dowland: Lachrimae (1604), Cambridge Music Handbooks, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, p. 49.

In his article “Dowland’s True Tears,” The Lute, Volume XLII, 2002, David Pinto provides an astute description of Dowland’s 1595 letter to Sir Robert Cecil, tying together his interpretation of the letter’s contents and Dowland’s Catholicism.  We discuss the letter in more depth in our final post in this series.

While objectively outlining Pinto’s ideas, Peter Holman instead favors an interpretation of Dowland’s Latin titles based upon a broader look at the phenomenon of Elizabethan melancholy.  We have discussed the fashion of melancholy in the past, particularly in our popular post on the Willow Song.  But acknowledging that melancholy may arise from natural sources, when describing cause and effect, Dowland’s contemporaries did not secularize the phenomenon as modern commentators are prone to do.

In line with Pinto’s interpretation, Timothy Bright wrote in 1586 of the sort of melancholy that springs from religious guilt and prompts men to exceed their station in pursuit of that which they may believe God has withheld from them.

“I haue layd open howe the bodie, and corporall things affect the soule, & how the body is affected of it againe: what difference is betwixt natural melancholie and that heauy hande of God vpon the afflicted conscience, tormented with remorse of sinne, and feare of his iudgement…”

– Timothy Bright, “The Epistle Dedicatorie: To the Right Worshipful M. Peter Osbourne, &c.” A Treatise of Melancholie, published by Thomas Vautrollier, London, 1586.

A glance at Bright’s Table of Contents reveals his thoroughness in describing the outward symptoms of a melancholy condition.

Cap. 23. pag. 132. The causes of teares, and theire saltnes.

Cap. 24. pag. 135. Why teares endure not all the time of the cause: and why in weeping commonly the finger is put in the eye.

Cap. 25. pag. 148. Of the partes of weeping: why the countenance is cast downe, the fore-head lowereth: the nose droppeth, the lippe trembleth, &c.

Cap. 26. pag. 123. The causes of sobbing, and sighing : and how weeping easeth the hearte.

Cap. 27. pag. 157. How melancholye causeth both weeping, and laughing with the reasons how.

We consider this preoccupation with weeping and tears in light of the texts of Dowland’s songs to arrive at an interpretation of Dowland’s outlook, further reinforced by words from his own publications:

Nec prosunt domino, quæ prosunt omnibus, artes. (The arts which help all mankind cannot help their master), The First Booke of Songes or Ayres, 1597, title page.

Aut Furit, aut Lachrimat, quem non Fortuna beauit (Whom Fortune has not blessed, he either rages or weeps), Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares, 1604, title page.

It’s uncertain whether these inscriptions were the work of the author or the printer but in reference to the latter quote, we can say that Dowland both raged and wept.  To elaborate on the theme of religious melancholy, we quote a later and somewhat Puritanical source:

“Alas there are but few that finde the narrow way…and those few what are they? Not dancers, but mourners: not laughers, but weepers; whose tune is Lachrymae, whose musicke sighs for sinne; who know no other Cinqua-pace but this to Heaven, to goe mourning all the day long for their inequities; to mourne in secret like Doves, to chatter like Cranes for their owne and others sinnes.”

– William Prynne, Histrio-Mastix: The Players Scourge or Actors Tragaedie, E. A. and W. I. for Michael Sparke, London, 1633, p. 244.

Prynne’s words confirm the Tudor/Stuart world view, tying together religious melancholy and the ubiquitous familiarity of Dowland’s music and his meaning.

Peter Hauge offers a not necessarily contradictory overview of the artistic plan and contents of Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares.

“King of Denmarks Galiard – the first galliard which is named after Dowland’s master and brother of the new queen of Great Britain – is the centre of the whole collection. Two sets of Denaries – ten, the most perfect and universal number – are placed on each side of the piece, giving the impression of the king, not as an ordinary earthly man, but as a very special and supreme person among all the dedicatees.”

“The number seven has a special meaning as it is composed of three, signifying Trinity and the universe, and four, symbolising the elemental world. Seven is also the unification of the intellectual (mind) and physical (body) worlds…It is tempting to suggest that the entire collection corresponds to the three distinct realms of the christianised Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmology popular in the Renaissance:

1. The seven Lachrimæ pavans (nos. 1-7) correspond to the supercelestial sphere above the planets (the abode of God), which was believed to be constant, orderly, and eternal;
2. the titles of address (nos. 8-14) correspond to the planets;
3. the last seven pieces (nos. 15-21) correspond to the inferior and terrestrial world, often described in terms such as inconstancy, corruption, and generation.”

“It seems most likely that Dowland, the composer, editor and publisher, was very conscious of the way in which he compiled the volume of music, creating sections and placing the movements in a specific order. He employed symbolism and allegory to create an entity, suggesting a hidden meaning in the same way as the universe contained secret knowledge. One is tempted to conclude that this collection of music is a microcosm – that is, an image of the “true and real” universe (macrocosm) – containing a proper Platonic correspondence: as Apollo, the sun, is the centre of the universe, Christian IV is the centre of Dowland’s universe – and of his creation: his most important volume of music.”

– Peter Hauge, “Dowland’s Seven Tears, or the Art of Concealing the Art,” Danish Yearbook of Musicology 29 (2001), ppg. 13 -15.

With apologies for an abrupt ending, we close for today in order to rehearse.  We continue our series next week with more on Dowland’s Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares.

Saturday morning quotes 7.12: Lachrimæ III


“Hauing in forren parts met diuers Lute-lessons of my composition, publisht by strangers without my name or approbation; I thought it much more conuenient, that my labours should passe forth vnder mine owne allowance, receiuing from me their last foile and polishment; for which consideration I haue vndergone this long and troublesome work, wherein I haue mixed new songs with olde, graue with light, that euery eare may receiue his seuerall content.  And as I had in these an earnest desire to satisfie all, I do like-wise hope that the peruser will as gratefully entertaine my endeauours, as they were friendly meant…”

– John Dowland, “To the Reader”, Lachrimæ, or Seaven Teares…, 1604.

We begin this the third in our series on John Dowland’s Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares with the voice of the man himself.  There is much to be gleaned from Dowland’s words.  While the composer was likely pleased with the widespread distribution of his lute solos, he was unhappy that his music was published in embarrassingly corrupt form, and thought it worth the trouble to supervise publication of his work.

It is also very interesting to note that Dowland considered the lute parts to be finished versions of his work.  If we embrace this concept and procede by regarding Dowland’s work in the same light as the 19th-century model of masterworks from the iconic composers who would not tolerate the merest deviation from their score, we’re in a bit of a pickle.  But a fact that many performers miss today is that functional dance music of Dowland’s time, was meant to be repeated ad nauseam to serve the needs of the dancers, and it’s just plain silly to think that improvisation would not take place.  Excluding for the moment the seven Lachrimæ pieces in the publication, the lute parts simply offer an outline of each particular composition and, following the performing conventions of the time, it is presumed that Dowland was saying, “These are the correct notes and the proper harmonies, now do what you will.”

The cycle of seven Lachrimæ pavans that open the publication is a different kettle of fish.  We believe the lute parts for this cycle of pavans composed on the “falling tear” motif to represent the result of Dowland’s “last foile and polishment”.  And, we might add, these are not works that lie particularly well under the fingers, but works that require a deep understanding, a keen ear, and a deft hand to perform well.  These are works that require a long and thoughtful familiarity to tease out their meaning, to fathom the larger plan Dowland had in mind, and to discern the unique individual character of each piece.

We defer to summary descriptions and speculations from the specialists.

“With the publication of Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares in 1604, Dowland again presented English music-lovers with something quite new.  Music specifically written for five viols, or violins, and lute had never before appeared in England.  All the parts in the same volume are disposed on the open folio, after the pattern of the four-part ayres in the song books, so that each player had his part clearly visible as a group sat round a table with the book placed in the centre.”

Diana Poulton (John Dowland: His life and works, University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal., 2nd edition, 1982, p. 342.

“All twenty-one pieces are written for five viols, or violins, and lute, but the slight ambiguity in the description of the contents, on the title-page, as being ‘set forth for the Lute, Viols, or Violins, in fiue parts’, has opened the way for a theory, held by some groups of viol players, that if the five bowed instruments are present the lute is unnecessary.  In support of this idea the fact is put forward that the lute doubles at least four of the parts throughout the majority of the pieces and, in particular, the doubling of the Cantus by the lute is cited as being both unnecessary and objectionable.  I am convinced this whole argument is incorrect and that the lute is essential to a satisfactory performance.”

“Careful examination of the score shows an infinite variety of devices are used in the lute part, each of which makes its individual contributions to the texture…At times an entirely independent voice occurs on the lute which does not coincide with that of any of of the bowed instruments.  Furthermore decorative figures are used to embellish the line both of the melody and the bass as well as of one or other of the inner parts.”

– Poulton, p. 345 – 346.

“The seven pavans that begin Lachrimæ are among the best-known and best-loved pieces of instrumental music written before the eighteenth century.  Their serene beauty speaks for itself, yet they also raise many questions.  Why are there seven of them?  How are they related? Do they contain ideas borrowed from other composers?  Were they intended to be performed as a cycle?  What is the significance of the Latin titles? Do they [the titles] have any bearing on their musical character?  How does the cycle exemplify the Elizabethan cult of melancholy?”

– Peter Holman, Dowland: Lachrimae (1604), Cambridge Music Handbooks, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, p. 36.

“…It is interesting that Dowland gave his pavan the title ‘Lachrimæ’, ‘tears’, and the cycle the subtitle ‘seaven teares’. In Elizabethan literature tears were normally expected from women, children and old men, and were associated with moderate emotion…But in some circumstances it was acceptable for men to weep in a religious situation.  Indeed, their tears could be thought of as an emblem of their status as a pentinent before God, as John Donne put it: ‘Powre new seas in mine eyes, so that I might / Drowne my world with my weeping earnestly, / Or wash it, if it must be drown’d no more’.  There were biblical precedents: David wept for his son Absolom, Peter wept over his betrayal of Jesus, and of course, Jesus wept for Lazarus.  There is no reason to think that ‘Lachrimæ’ is specifically a portrait of female tears, so it is likely that the pavan had some religious significance for Dowland, as the connections with the Pennitential Psalms imply.”

– Holman, p. 48.

“Lachrimæ is isolated as a seven-fold pavan cycle: not a suite form, renaissance or baroque.  Internal evidence (we have little else) shows that it was a private riddle to its dedicatee, if it also seems from its preface (as Peter Holman emphasises) that other contents had been scored for a Danish court ensemble.  Dowland was a masterful handler of pattern within form, but his septenary design is no dance structure and must have external references.  That in turn points to texted, probably non-secular sources: which by default narrows the field to models in Christian liturgy or domestic piety.”

– David Pinto, “Dowland’s True Tears,” The Lute, Volume XLII, 2002, p 11.

The seven Psalmi pœnitentialis referenced by Holman and Pinto as possible models for Dowland’s Seaven Teares include texts from Psalm 6 – Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me (Pro octava); Psalm 31 – Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates; Psalm 37 – Domine ne in furore (in rememorationem de sabbato); Psalm 50 – Miserere mei, Deus; Psalm 101 – Domine, exaudi orationem meam; Psalm 129 – De profundis clamavi; and Psalm 142 – Domine, exaudi orationem meam.

Both Holman and Pinto look to the polyphonic settings by Orlande de Lassus, Psalmi Davidis Poenitentiales (1584), as Dowland’s direct inspiration for the Seaven TearesLassus’ musical settings are attractive in the extreme, as is the idea of Dowland’s use of them for a model.  But while the form and meaning of the Psalmi Poenitentiales would have resonated with Dowland’s preoccupation with the theme of religious penance, there is a distinct absence of firm evidence for Dowland’s exposure to the music of Lassus, and the connection must remain speculative.

The Penitential Psalms were translated into English by Sir Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and Sir Philip Sidney, and Dowland surely had access to these translations.  Significant evidence that Dowland was in fact preoccupied with the Penitential Psalm texts in English lies in his four-voice settings of Psalms, “Domine ne in furore”, “Miserere mei Deus, “De profundis” and Domine exaudi orationem meam”, which were distributed in manuscript form as Lamentatio Henrici Noel (1597)These four texts, along with three additional canticles comprise Dowland’s set of seven compositions dedicated to his patron Henry Noel after his untimely death in 1596, and Diana Poulton proposed that this music was performed at Noel’s funeral.  A modern edition of the Lamentatio Henrici Noel edited by Ron Andrico, including the original four-voice settings in English and additional arrangements for solo voice and lute, is available from the Lute Society.

We delve a bit more deeply into the possible meaning of Dowland’s Latin titles for the Lachrimæ pavan cycle in the next installment of our series.

Saturday morning quotes 7.11: Lachrimæ II


We continue our examination of Dowland’s famous musical emblem as background to his publication, Lachrimæ or Seaven Teares, a collection of instrumental music for five viols or violin family instruments and lute published in 1604.

In our previous post we discussed Dowland’s source for the “falling tear” motif, and made a strong case for the final notes of the Cantus part of Luca Marenzio’s “Piango che Amoras Dowland’s source of inspiration.  Speculative sources for the motif have been proposed by Diana Poulton, Peter Holman and the estimable David Pinto, but we must insert a reality check: Although our lutenist/composer must have examined all the important music he could lay hands on, we find it difficult to imagine that Dowland would have been mucking about the Altus partbook of Lassus’ Penitential Psalms in the hope that a string of notes might leap out from the texture and serve as the very substance of his artistic persona.  Regardless of the deeper meaning he later imparted to the musical snippet, Dowland would have responded to something much more obvious and direct, and our proposal offers the clearest example of a source of the Lachrimæ motif.


As for Dowland’s use of the motif, we know that the Lachrimæ Pavan for solo lute came before his other elaborations of the piece, and Dowland’s biographer, Diana Poulton, identified the earliest version for solo lute in the first of the Cambridge lute manuscripts.

“The problem of the date of composition of the original Lachrimæ Pavan is bound up with the chronology of the Cambridge lute MSS…If the evidence is accepted which points to the year 1595 as a likely date for the completion of Dd.2.11, the earliest volume in the series, then we can say at least that the lute solo was in existence by that date as two copies of the piece, one in G minor and one in A minor, are found in this MS.”

Diana Poulton, John Dowland: His life and works, University of California Press, Berkeley, Cal., 2nd edition, 1982, p. 126.

In connecting the date of the source and the first appearance of Dowland’s use of the Lachrimæ motif, Marenzio’s important set of  Madrigali a quatto, cinqe e sei voci. Libro primo was published in 1588.  We have no idea of Dowland’s whereabouts from the time of his 1580 appointment as servant to Sir Henry Cobham, ambassador to France, up to 1592, when it is presumed he was returned to England and took part in an entertainment at Sudeley castle.  He may have remained in France with Cobham’s replacement, Sir Edward Stafford, or he may have returned to England.  In any event, we can tell from his treatment of French dance tunes and his setting in Italian that Dowland was certainly exposed to a variety of continental music during the 1580s, and he developed an ardent appreciation for the music of Marenzio.

From the article by Richard Freedman, “Marenzio’s Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588: A Newly-Revealed Madrigal Cycle and Its Intellectual Context”, The Journal of Musicology, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Summer, 1995), pp. 318-354.

“Luca Marenzio’s Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci of 1588 is a compelling manifesto of Renaissance musical and literary sensibilities. In this book, the composer tells us, are new madrigals that aim “through the imitation of the words and the propriety of the style at a somber gravity [mesta gravitá] not encountered among his earlier works.  Indeed, the serious character of the book of 1588 is plain enough: Jacopo Sannazaro, Marenzio’s most favored poet prior to 1588, is represented by lyrics that avoid the sort of bucolic narratives typically found among Marenzio’s earlier selections from his writings. Marenzio’s approach to the lyrics carefully chosen for the book of 1588 is extraordinary, juxtaposing poems and parts of poems in a remarkable musical retelling of his own stylistic transformation.”

– p. 318.

“The genres and styles represented here retell an impressive tale of Marenzio’s musical development during the 1580s, when the changing claims of artistic patronage and academic audience led him to reconsider the “forbidden hopes” and “misleading thoughts” of Sannazaro’s pastoral vision.”

– p. 349.

In 1588 Dowland was 25 years of age and eager to make his mark among colleagues and patrons, and it makes sense that the young musician would grasp the depth of meaning in Marenzio’s new publication, and perhaps identify with Marenzio’s own quest to attain, at the same time, suitable patronage and a place of honor among the cognoscenti.  “Piango che Amor”, number three in Marenzio’s set, is a moving miniature masterpiece that aptly illustrates the theme of tears.  The final notes of the Cantus that evocatively depict the word “weeping” were likely burned into the young Dowland’s psyche, as the final notes of any piece are apt to do.

The debt of gratitude owed for the gift of this motif was likely a contributing factor for Dowland’s strong admiration for Marenzio’s music, and for his desire to take an unauthorized trip to Italy to meet his unknowing mentor in person—at the enormous risk of incurring the wrath of Sir Robert Cecil and his tightly controlled surveillance state.  More on Dowland’s abortive Italian journey and its consequences will be discussed in a later post in this series.

As mentioned earlier, the Lachrimæ Pavan in a setting for solo lute first turned up in hand-written manuscript form sometime before 1595.  The piece first appeared in print in William Barley’s A New Booke of Tabliture, published in 1596.  In a move reminiscent of today’s business model of Google and Spotify, Barley apparently helped himself to the piece and published without prior consent, and an irritated Dowland wrote in his address “To the courteous Reader” in The First Booke of Songes (1597), “There haue bin divers Lute lessons of mine lately printed without my knowledge, falce and vnperfect, but I purpose shortly my selfe to set forth the choisest of all my lessons in print…”

Dowland did not offer a collection of his music for solo lute until A Varietie of Lute Lessons was published in 1610, under his son Robert’s name.  In fact, only seven (or possibly eight) pieces in Varietie are actually by Dowland, and his public was compelled to be content with the pieces for lute appended to each of his four books of ayres.

The next printed appearance of Dowland’s treatment of Lachrimæ was in 1600.  According to Diana Poulton:

“In the Second Booke of Songs (1600) the vocal setting appears in the Table of Contents as ‘Flow my teares fall from your springs’.  In the body of the book it is, like all the other songs, headed with a number, but above the Cantus part and again above the Bassus, the word ‘Lacrime’ is printed.  This is the only occasion throughout Dowland’s song-books where a title other than the opening words of the poem is used.  Surely the intention is clear—’Here is a song to my already famous tune Lacrime’.  Had the song arrangement been made at an appreciably earlier date it is difficult to find any adequate reason for his having refrained from including it in The First Booke of Songes since he obviously regarded it as his greatest composition and, in 1597, no version of which he approved had appeared in print.”

– Poulton, p. 126.

“If it is agreed that the lute solo was composed before the song, then it seems certain that the words were written specially to fit the music, a practice in common use at the time, especially in the case of dance music.  It would be an extreme coincidence to find a poem, written independently of the music, that would fuse with it in such an exact unity.”

– Poulton, p. 255.

“Flow my teares fall from your springs” is Dowland’s most familiar song, and has been performed in recent years by a diverse selection of singers with a wide variety of approaches, from countertenor Andreas Scholl to pop star Sting.

“Could you say that Scholl is idiomatic where Sting is not? I don’t think so. Both styles seem to share that quality of having been invented for the purpose. Sting’s style was invented by Sting. Scholl’s style is a version of something invented by Alfred Deller.”

– James Fenton, “New tunes from an old lute,” The Guardian, Sat 14 Oct 2006

We close this post with our informal video recording: For those astute readers who may notice an oddity in the facsimile score, we refer you to an explanatory post from the past.