John Dowland, the English/Irish composer, has played a major role in my life as a musician and guitarist. He already inspired me at an
early age, when I still lived in Switzerland and was far away from England and any of ist great music from Dowland’s period. MORE…
Dowland, the melancholic poet of the silvery sound of the lute, is free of any instrumental limitation that might have affected his ompositions. The melodic and, at the same time, contrapuntal and harmonic approach of his music is both wonderful and unique. Its xpression is one of noble sadness, melancholy, and tears, but the beauty is genuine and always caught my attention and appealed to my heart. In this, his music is somewhat similar to Franz Schubert’s.
Dowland’s solo works for the lute or his songs always provided me (as did Schubert) with a restful haven in the midst of my own emotions, which allowed me to assimilate and understand his music on a more emotional level. Besides, Dowland actually composed for the lute. Of course, the lute was the primary solo instrument of his time, and the sound of Dowland’s music is a journey through time that, to this very day, speaks to our emotions. The words “lute” and “oud” derive from Arabic al-‘ud ( العور†- literally means “the wood”).
‘ud may in turn be an Arabized version of the Persian rud, which meant “string”, “stringed instrument”, or “lute”. The modern guitar was preceded by the lute, the vihuela, the fourcourse Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument. Though the guitar is a different instrument, it can nonetheless be faithful to the original sound of the lute and create music of the same emotional intensity. I have always found it utterly natural to transcribe Dowland’s solo works for the golden sound of the guitar, and it has been a joy to include them in many of my recitals. For some of these pieces I have added some diminutions – a diminution being the compositional device whereby a melody, theme, or motif is presented in shorter note-values than were originally used. I think that Dowland’s music should not be limited to a specific instrument, because his music is able to open up a new dimension and achieve a level of inspiration that can be shared with others. The search for Dowland’s musical
soul cannot only be perceived in the lament of pieces such as Midnight and Lachrimae, etc.; in fact, with all its shadows and lights, his music transforms itself into something created of beauty and love.