Mister Dowland's Midnight
As a sometime Lieder accompanist and conductor, Swiss-born guitarist Christoph Denoth is superbly placed to exploit the cantabile and colouristic properties of his instrument. And if, like others before him, he is perhaps too ready to take John Dowland’s melancholia at face value when it was really more a fashionable conceit than a pathological condition, it’s this credulousness which gives his arrangements and their performances so much of their beauty and power.
Nowadays one is more likely to hear these works performed on the lute by such masters as Paul O’Dette, Hopkinson Smith and Nigel North, with guitarists such as Göran Söllscher or Evgeni Finkelstein usually incorporating his music into a broader recital programme. So it’s a bonus to hear an entire recording such as this one devoted entirely to Dowland on the guitar.
Denoth has chosen to arrange a variety of pieces from across Dowland’s oeuvre: pavans, galliards and other dances; fantasies and preludes; and variations on popular tunes and original songs. Their moods vary from the cheerful (Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe), through the dramatic (A Fancy) to the genuinely melancholy (Melancholy Galliard). The arrangements are superb, adding the occasional few bars of divisions after Dowland’s example and managing to remain faithful to the spirit of both the lute and the modern classical guitar. It’s more in the broad tempi, clarity of voices and generous tonal palette that one detects the influence of Denoth’s conducting teacher, Celibidache – an approach best exemplified by the extraordinary fey stateliness of the Lachrimae Pavan.