“Though the title doth promise teares, unfit guests in these joyfull times, yet no doubt pleasant are the teares which Musicke weepes, neither are teares shed always in sorrow, but some time in joy and gladness.”
John Dowland, Preface to Lachrimae, 1604
Dowland’s Lachrimae has become canon in the annals of consort music! “Unfit guests in these joyful times”, these seven tears of extreme beauty are cried out by five viols and lute, Dowland’s instrument. Dowland himself was a renowned player who would have been a court musician to Queen Elizabeth, but for his adherence to his Papist faith acquired during a youthful visit to France. Despite honourary degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge, he lived most of his life as an expatriate in Italy, Germany and Denmark, where he was both appointed lutenist to King Christian IV and acted as spy for his Queen Elizabeth, to whom he remained devoted.
This performance is significantly different from most in that the music is ornamented in a style appropriate to the period and in defiance of a certain modern Puritanism that demands total adherence to the written page. The embellishment adds expressive elegance and musical freedom that we hope enhances the audience’s “joy and gladness”!