Go from my window
An entire disc of Renaissance lute music, especially one that includes no fantasias, can easily be the aural equivalent of a fast-changing kaleidoscope. Nigel North avoids this risk with items of high musical quality: only four of the 17 last for less than three minutes and two play for over six minutes. Interestingly, he juxtaposes settings of three of the popular songs of the day by two different composers, of whom Dowland is one in each case. The contrasts between his settings of My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home with that of Byrd, of Walsingham with Johnson’s, and with Collard’s Go From My Window are striking; the less well known ‘others’ deserve better recognition. Several items have no other catalogue listing, and a second version (after David Miller’s on Hyperion, 1/96) of Danyel’s imaginative variations on Mistress Anne Grene her leaves be greene is long overdue.
Not only is the programme sagely chosen, it is also magnificently played. There are many lutenists who play this music in correct style but few who present it in such ‘human’ fashion. With his lines shaped by finely controlled rubato and subtly shaded dynamics, North deserves his place among the finest living lutenists. The recording captures his splendid, ‘three-dimensional’ tone and his avoidance of unwanted ghostly sounds from the movements of his left-hand fingers, and his annotation is a model of its kind. If you should wish to instill a love of lute music in a friend, you could not do better than by beginning with this lovely recording.