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Dowland: Lachrimae (1604).

Dowland: Lachrimae (1604). By Peter Holman. (Cambridge Music Handbooks.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. [xvi, 100 p. ISBN 0521-58196-6 (cloth); 0-521-58829-4 (pbk.). $44.95 (cloth); $15.95 (pbk.).]

Edging out Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers by a few years, John Dowland's Lachrimae is now the earliest music to be featured in the rapidly expanding Cambridge Music Handbooks series. This is the first detailed study of the 1604 publication and the first attempt to relate the pieces in the collection to their titles.

Lachrimae, Dowland's only publication of consort music, contains twenty-one dances in five parts for lute, viols, or violins. Each is printed with the parts arranged on a single opening in such a way that, with the score laid on a table, musicians could gather around and play. (Today's performers might do likewise, given the greater number of facsimiles available than complete modern editions.) The table format is only one of the collection's unusual features. It is the first publication of dances for string ensemble to include a lute accompaniment; the dances are ordered by genre rather than in pairs or by key; each of the seven pavans that begin the collection has a Latin title whose first word is "lachrimae" (tears); and the title of each of the remaining pavans, galliards, and almands names a person, presumably a dedicatee. Half of the pieces existed in versions for solo lute or lute song (including the eponymous "Lachrimae" pavan, the famous opening piece of the collection, whose lute-song version is ti tled "Flow My Teares") before Dowland arranged them for the 1604 publication.

The first three chapters, nearly half the book, provide extensive background on the instrumentation and dance types. First, though, Peter Holman reviews music publishing in England and Dowland's travels to and from the Continent prior to his publication of the collection in London in spring 1604, while on leave from a court post in Denmark, The dedication mentions that the work was begun in Denmark and finished in England, prompting Holman to suggest that those dances, mostly pavans, with the cantos part in soprano clef ("low-pitched") were written in England for viols, some especially for the collection, while those using treble clef ("high-pitched," mostly galliards and almands) come from the repertory of the violin band at the Danish court. While this is "an obvious possibility" (p. 19), treating the dances in categories of "low-pitched" and "high-pitched," as Holman does throughout the book, is misleading; whatever the pitch standard, the two groups are distinguished more by style, especially rhythm and texture, than by a slightly higher tessitura in some of the upper parts. Even with little or no difference in range between the lower parts of the two groups, Holman favors transposing the "low-pitched" dances upward for violin ensembles, although he concedes that the Lachrimae clefs do not reflect the Italian chiavette practice of transposition, matching instruments and clefs.

Instruments would, however, have been matched by family, since professional musicians, for whom Lachrimae was primarily intended, would have played the dances with either viols or violins, but not a mixture. The tablature lute part of each dance, written for a nine-course instrument more common on the Continent than in England, doubles some or all of the five string parts, adding Ornamentation and timbre. Holman views such accompaniment as a nascent continuo part.

The next two chapters address the specific dances. Holman gives greatest attention to the "Seaven Tears Figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans," based on Dowland's well-known lute piece. While that pavan has no single definitive original version, Holman describes characteristics common to several earlier, widely circulated versions. The best-known characteristic is the opening tear motive: the descending tetrachord, "a standard emblem of grief" (p. 40). It generates the six pavans that follow, creating a kind of variation cycle. Several writers have pointed to models for Dowland's theme. Holman adds two madrigals by Luca Marenzio and notes as well David Pinto's recent match with a setting from the Penitential Psalms of Orlando di Lasso (Pinto, "Dowland's Tears: Aspects of Lachrimae," The Lute 37 [1997]: 44-75).

Holman further identifies a motive in the third strain of the pavan with one in the third strain of Thomas Morley's "Sacred End Pavin." The motive and the title come from a refrain at the end of an anthem by Christopher Tye and later anthems by Thomas Weelkes and Morley. The "Sacred End" motive, as Holman calls it, "has some sort of religious significance" (p. 48); this conclusion supports Pinto's notion of a religious, even autobiographical, program for the cycle.

Discounting Dowland's Catholicism, Holman proposes that each tear pavan portrays a particular type of melancholy, that fashionable Elizabethan malady synonymous with Dowland's persona and music. Holman's reading of Elizabethan rhetoric and melancholy informs the analysis of each pavan to show how it expresses the character ascribed by its title ("Lachrimae Antiquae" [old], "Lachrimae Antiquae Novae" [old-new], "Lachrimae Gementes" [sighing], "Lachrimae Tristes" [sad], "Lachrimae Coactae" [compelled], "Lachrimae Amantis" [lover's], "Lachrimae Verae" [true]). He also identifies melodic and harmonic interrelationships within the cycle. Though his evidence is sometimes a bit stretched, the analysis is highly perceptive. For regardless what program, if any, is attached, there is surely a sense of emotional progression from intense grief to calm transcendence if the pavans are performed in sequence, as Holman strongly feels they should be.

The dances in the second part of the collection are ordered, rather curiously, according to the social rank of the person addressed, except for the first--the "selfportrait" pavan, "Semper Dowland Semper Dolens," which bridges the sections. Holman profiles each dance, giving source information and musical insights. Some appear to be memorials, and some borrow other composers' music. The majority are galliards, which Holman, without explanation, discusses in a rearranged order, derived from their types of earlier settings. He expertly sorts out the complicated relationships among various versions and finds subtle correspondences with ideas in the "Lachrimae" pavans. He even explores possible correlations between the character of the music and that of the dedicatee.

The final chapter assesses reception and revival. Lachrimae seems to have had little influence at home, and only a few dances appeared abroad in ensemble arrangements. More widespread were keyboard settings of the first "Lachrimae" pavan and allusions to its theme. Holman claims that Lachrimae is today among the best known and most performed collections of music before the eighteenth century. This handbook may help make it known to an even wider audience.
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Title Annotation:Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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