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John Dowland

Title Page of 'First Booke of Songes or Ayres of Fowre Partes', 1597

(1563 - 1626)

Though now considered to be among the foremost English composers of lute music and songs, little is known of the early life of John Dowland (1563 - February 20, 1626). He may have been born in London, and though early on his reputation seemed to be growing in England, he failed to secure a position at the court of Elisabeth I, and so eventually was offered a lurative position at the court of Christian IV of Denmark. Though Dowland returned to England in 1606 and in early 1612 was offered a post at the court of James I, there are few extent compositions from this last phase of his life.

Most of Dowland's works were written for his own instrument, the lute, including books of solo lute works, lute songs, part-songs with lute accompaniment, and several pieces for viol consort with lute. Two of his better known works are the lute song "Flow my tears," and the incomparable Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares, a set of seven pavans for viol and lute consort. Filled with extraordinary melancholy and a sense of loss and longing Dowland's music reflects the musical tastes of his day.

Recommended Recordings


Pilgrim's Solace (selections) and selected Ayres/Virgin Classics VC759521-2
Emma Kirkby (soprano) and Anthony Rooley (lute & orpharion)
Third Book of Ayres/L'Oiseau-Lyre 430284-2
Anthony Rooley/Consort of Musicke

Lute Music

28 Dances, Fantasias, etc./Dorian DOR-90148
Ronn McFarlane (lute)


Lachrimae (complete)/Virgin Classics VC545005-2
Lachrimae (complete)/Astree E8701
Hespèrion XX/Jordi Savall
Lachrimae (complete)/Hyperion CDA66637
Paul O'Dette (lute), Peter Holman/Parley Of Instruments Renaissance Violin Consort
Lachrimae (complete)/BIS CD-315
Jakob Lindberg/Dowland Consort