DOWLAND: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares (1604) – Hesperion XX/ Jordi Savall, conductor – Alia Vox Heritage

by | Jan 30, 2014 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

DOWLAND: Lachrimae or Seaven Teares (1604) – Hesperion XX/ Jordi Savall, conductor – Alia Vox Heritage (Vol. 17) multichannel SACD AVSA9901, 70:54 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

It’s getting really hard to keep up with the absolute plethora of recordings issued from Alia Vox. Aside from their reissues, as here, now up to 17 volumes with no end in sight, Hesperion XXI’s new recordings arrive just about every couple of months. Because of the immense production values, stunning sound, and sometimes thick books that accompany the music, one wonders how Savall does it. Never mind; let’s just hope he keeps on doing it!

The release, from 1987, has been remastered into hi-def surround sound, and is wonderful. Savall and company really have this down in a way that many who remaster recordings don’t. I can’t think of one release that is anything but at least very good, most superb. Such is the case here in this very important album. John Dowland wrote only one piece for viol consort (and, unusually for the time, with lute) which he called Lachrimae or Seaven Teares, actually a much longer title that I am not going to take the space to write here. None of the music is really new for him, but culled from other sources. The Lachrimae tune knew no rivals in terms of popularity during his lifetime; in fact he set a song to it called Flow my Tears included in his Second Book of Ayres.

From this principle theme he created seven pavans in the Aeolian mode. These are kept fresh by injecting new elements into each as the work proceeds. Dowland did not specify the order of these works, and of these eight pieces there are still 13 others of varying stripes (other galliards and pavans) that are part of this collection as well. Savall presents the eight lachrimae interspersed with other pieces.

Of course, Dowland, the English Orpheus as he is known, is also the King of Melancholy too, that fashionable Elizabethan period malady that everyone loved at the time, so don’t look to these pieces for a quick shot of cheeriness. Instead, if you enjoy viols and lutes and fabulous art at the very highest it can get—along with some splendid melody—Dowland’s your guy.


Lachrimae Antiquae; Sir John Souch his Galiard; Lachrimae Antiquae Novae; M. Henry Noell his Galiard; Lachrimae Gementes; The Earl of Essex Galiard; Lachrimae Tristes; M. Nicho. Gryffith his Galiard; Lachrimae Coactae; M. Giles Hoby his Galiard; Lachrimae Amantis; M. Thomas Collier his Galiard; Lachrimae Verae; Captaine Digorie Piper his Galiard; Semper Dowland semper Dolens; The King of Denmarks Galiard; Sir Henry Umptons Funerall; M. Bucton his Galiard; M. John Langtons Pavan; Mrs Nichols Almand; M. George Whitehead his Almand

—Steven Ritter

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