What a joy. With previous lute experience only from Sting's 'Songs from the Labyrinth' this boxed set of lute music by John Dowland has opened up a whole new world of Pavans, Galliards, Almains, Fancyes, and Fantasies. Nigel North, Lutenist for over 30 years, brings this music to life. For anyone liking early music, his 4 CD set is both a must and a snip! Whether for serious listening with venison and claret, or for fun with biskyttes and sack, you will seriously enjoy both the true genius of Dowland and his perfect interpretation by North.
This is an absolutely fantastic set. Dowland's lute music itself is wonderful - often melancholy, sometimes more sprightly and dancing but always fresh and often innovative for its time and packed with melody and harmonic invention. It constitutes one of the glories of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages and, four centuries on, thoroughly deserves to be alive and well. In the hands of Nigel North it is both.
North is one of the world's greatest lutenists. He has been making recordings of the highest quality for many years now and this series for Naxos is among his best. He has the depth of technique to make Dowland's sometimes very difficult pieces sound as easy and as natural as breathing. He also has a wonderful understanding of the music itself, investing it with exactly the right degree of emotion so that it never sounds stodgy or miserable - just poignantly melancholy where it should and engagingly charming in other places. The fabulously beautiful tone which North coaxes from his lute is perfectly caught by the excellent recording, and the notes and presentation are very decent.
I cannot commend this set highly enough. I was raised on Jakob Lindberg's recordings which I still love, but I have come round to preferring Nigel North's recordings. At this price they are a wonderful bargain, too. Don't hesitate: this is a set to give pleasure for many years so snap it up.
Even by Naxos' standards this is astonishing value for money. Four CDs each in a jewel case (which will suit some purists) and all with more than an hour of Nigel North's superb playing. There are generous notes with some repeated in each disk because they appear to be available individually. The recording quality is great and those listeners like me who haven't much lute music in their collection will love the sound of this instrument in my view unfairly neglected down the centuries.
Nigel's excellent set of Dowland is simply too good to miss at this ludicrously low price. His taste is impeccable, and his performances are beautifully recorded on Naxos. Read other (5-star) reviews of the single releases if you need more persuading.....but don't hesitate.