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The Hilliard Ensemble: Dowland – In Darkness Let Me Dwell (APE)

The Hilliard Ensemble: Dowland - In Darkness Let Me Dwell (APE)
The Hilliard Ensemble: Dowland - In Darkness Let Me Dwell (APE)

Performer: The Hilliard Ensemble
Composer: John Dowland
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Ecm
Size: 282 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Weep You No More, Sad Fountains
02. In Darkness Let Me Dwell
03. Lachrimae Verae
04. From Silent Night
05. Come Again
06. The Lowest Trees Have Tops
07. Flow My Tears
08. Come Heavy Sleep
09. Fine Knacks For Ladies
10. Flow My Tears
11. Now, Oh Now I Needs Must Part
12. Lachrimae Tristes
13. Go Crystal Tears
14. Lachrimae Amantis

Neither fatal nor glorious

Dowland is a composer who can grow wearisome. The LP, with 20 to 25 minutes on a side, was perfect, and I still own a couple from way back then. But his lachrymose songs eventually wear me down, no matter how excellent the performers. One long evening was spent at an all Dowland barrage, in as traditional a performance as scholarship can imagine. I was just bored by the end, despite the excellence of all on stage. This collection is similar, though in different ways. I have taken this CD and mixed it into some vocal compilations, for individually there are tracks that are splendid. “Come Again” is perfect, a blend of old and new that works spectacularly. Indeed, this is not pure old music, but a weird and wonderful updating with a charmingly gloomy reed or two. Other cuts are nearly as good, and for those tracks alone, this is a keeper.

However, on some songs, the sound just grates, and I’m not sure John Potter’s voice is strong enough to hold the show alone. Several of these annoy to the point of exasperation. So though I have no inherent objection to a sax and baroque violin pairing off, this is not a perfect CD. Sound is very good (the buzzing mentioned elsewhere does not bother me, nor the rasping of bow on string.) Musicians are excellent, especially the versatile Stephen Stubbs on the not-very-versatile lute. He fills and surrounds and enhances with the gentlest plucks, supporting and amplifying all the others. The six star stuff shines, but for the rest, the material offers too little modulation. Eventually it starts to sound like whining, and the ear (or at least this ear) tunes it out.

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