Dowland Complete Lute Works, Vol. 5
Given the odd transmission of John Dowland’s lute music, any ‘complete’ recording of it is inevitably going to include a fair number of works that can have had little to do with him. Paul O’Dette has boldly put most of these together in his fifth and last volume (previous volumes were reviewed in 11/95, 8/96, 11/96 and 2/97), adding for good measure the three surviving works of the master’s son, Robert Dowland. In the accompanying notes O’Dette is engagingly candid in expressing his views about the various works and their various degrees of authenticity. In fact the only works he seems to think authentic are the Sir Thomas Monson pavan and galliard that survive only under the name of Robert Dowland (he refrains from mentioning that the third Robert Dowland piece survives only in a copy written by John Dowland).
But the collection is none the less fascinating for all that. They are nearly all thoroughly worthwhile pieces, some of them very good indeed (including the one now agreed to be by Holborne and the one he thinks likely to be by Daniel Bacheler); and he ends with what he considers a late adaptation of one of Dowland’s most famous fantasies (Poulton No. 1).
O’Dette continues to show that in terms of sheer freedom of technique he is hard to challenge among today’s lutenists: the often complicated counterpoint is always crystal clear; and he invariably conveys the strongest possible feeling for the formal design of the works. He plays with a thoughtfulness and sovereign control that are always invigorating. If there are fewer cases of pure musical magic here than in previous volumes, anyone who is fascinated by the work of the prince of lutenists (I mean Dowland, but I suppose I could be talking about O’Dette as well) will want to have this disc. '