Wednesday, February 20, 2013


English composer and lutenist John Dowland was born in 1563 (probably) but he was buried on this day in 1626. We don't know for sure even where he was born but he got about a good deal in later life spending time in Paris working for the ambassador to the French court and later in the court of Christian IV of Denmark.

He may also have been a spy but that claim is made for many who moved freely about the courts of Europe at the time.

What he certainly appears to have been was a melancholy and a bitter man. He was a Catholic at a time when this was unlikely to endear anyone to the English court (though it did Byrd little harm) and was one to wear his religious heart on his sleeve and carry a chip on his shoulder. It is said he never forgave his Queen for the somewhat backhanded compliment that he  "was a man to serve any prince in the world, but was an obstinate Papist."  He did finally land that plum job of court lutenist under James I.

His books of lute songs were hugely influencial at the time and he enjoyed a whole new lease of life with the 20th century revival of  'early' music. He was especially well served because his works so well suited the new flowering of counter tenors and the new lutenists like Julian Bream. Benjamin Britten wrote "Nocturnal after John Dowland " in the 1960s, guitar variations on Dowland  for Bream again.

Here are two of Dowland's most popular pieces. Firstly 'Flow, My Tears' sung by Andreas Scholl

'Flow, My Tears' as much later in "Flow My Tears , The Policeman Said".  Phillip K. Dick was such a Dowland fan that he occassionally used the pen-name Jack Dowland  and Dowland's music is featured in several Dick novels.

And playing the aptly titled 'Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens' ...Always Dowland, Always Doleful  
Ever, Julian Bream

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