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James Bowman and The King's Consort Awake Sweet Love Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

A reissue for this wonderful collection of 'Elizabethan pop songs'.

Charlotte Gardner 2007

Another top notch recording from a giant of early vocal music interpretation, supported by a stellar cast of musicians.

John Dowland’s lute songs have been enjoying a wider audience thanks to last year’s album from Sting. A good thing too, as these Elizabethan pop songs are packed with the whole kaleidoscope of human emotion and deserve to be more in the public consciousness than they are. Three cheers then to James Bowman and his friends for presenting us with their own take on these miniature musical and literary masterpieces.

As one might expect, James Bowman’s offering is rather more classically polished and less earthy than Sting’s performance for the Common Man; a court rather than a village pub interpretation if you like. However, for all it’s being gentler on the ear, it is no less a strong and heartfelt interpretation.

The CD is made up of lute (voice and lute) and consort (voice accompanied by viols) songs, with a number of lute solos, giving the disc a lovely variety of textures and moods. The viols particularly lend a rich contrast to the delicacy and lightness of the lute songs and solos.

The most heavily featured composer on the disc is the great songwriter John Dowland, reflecting the fact that he is the composer whose work survives in the greatest quantity. All of the lute solos are by him, with the exception of a piece by Alfonso Ferrabosco. In addition, however, are songs by Thomas Campion, Edward Johnston, Thomas Ford, and also John Danyel, a particularly neglected composer who obviously wrote some gems.

James Bowman’s usual ease of tone is in full evidence here. He gives us meltingly sweet, gorgeous, resonant high notes, and fluidity of vocal line. Meanwhile, David Miller’s lute playing is sensitive and agile. Whether pleading for God’s redemption or wooing a lover, both singer and lutenist capture the word painting which is such a feature and strength of these songs. This is one to savour.

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