“My Favorite Dowland” = JOHN DOWLAND: 23 selections [TrackList follows] – Paul O’Dette, lute – Harmonia mundi

by | Dec 24, 2014 | Classical CD Reviews

“My Favorite Dowland” = JOHN DOWLAND: 23 songs [TrackList follows] – Paul O’Dette, lute – Harmonia mundi HMU 9078515, 75:23 (5/13/14) *****:

“Revered as a titan of the lute and one of today’s pre-eminent early music scholars, it may come as a surprise that Paul O’Dette began his musical career playing electric guitar in a rock band in Columbus, Ohio.” Maybe that’s why O’Dette has already garnered five GRAMMY nominations.

Of course, the shock would be if Dowland had played in a rock band, which he didn’t. But it’s a useful provocation to think about what O’Dette has accomplished with the purely instrumental music by a composer who is on his way to becoming at least a latter-day rock star for the heavy emotion with which much of his music is drenched. Despite his reputation as a family man, Dowland’s adoption by Sting on the heels of many other pop culture explorations, has already made him into a celebrity slash Renaissance singer slash lutenist slash composer.

The lute music itself is a more chaste experience but no less an emotionally charged and colored one. O’Dette has newly-recorded pieces he has “most enjoyed playing in concert over the years,” which he calls “a cross section from the most profound to the most witty and unpretentious.” Making the CD even more of a treat, O’Dette has taken the greatest care not only on making his selection but in sequencing and grouping them according to the spirit of presentation as did performers in Dowland’s time.

Recorded at Goshen College in Indiana (the Columbus, Ohio-born O’Dette is thoroughly a homegrown American model, and has been Professor of Lute and Director of Early Music at the Eastman School of Music since 1976, at the age of 22), the  sound is generous, engaging and exquisite, like O’Dette’s playing, detailed and utterly unforced and natural, with just the right amount of touch on the strings and an ambient warmth that allows O’Dette to magically stretch phrases, whether sad or happy, across bar lines.

It is a very heady experience. Considering that much of Dowland’s lute music was originally written for 5-part consort, it can be only a matter of time before arrangements for modern string ensembles (no vocals, please) become all the rage.


Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe
The Shoemaker’s Wife
La Mia Barbara
Sir John Smith, His Almain
A Fancy
Mr. John Langton’s Pavan
The King of Denmark, His Galliard
Frog Galliard
Lachrimae Pavan, P. 15
Galliard to Lachrimae
Fantasie P1a
Farewell (Fantasie No. 3)
Forlorn Hope Fancy (Fantasie No. 2)
The Earl of Essex’s Galliard
A Coy Joy
Mrs. Vaux’s Jig, P. 57
Mrs. Winter’s Jump
Lady Clifton’s Spirit
Preludium; A Fancy (Fantasie No. 5)
The most sacred Queene Elizabeth her Galliard
Semper Dowland Semper Dolens

—Laurence Vittes