This, the Dowland Project's fourth album, is made up from largely improvised sessions made during the recording of Care Charming Sleep and Romaria.
In the booklet, John Potter distinguishes between the two sorts of material used here as "day" and "night". The day music is how the ensemble normally operate, using a notated piece as a point of departure, whilst the night pieces are more ephemeral; improvised meditations, inspired here by fragments of medieval poetry.
Among the day pieces are two fantazias for lute played by Stephen Stubbs taken from books by the Renaissance composers Attaignant and Dalza. There are some even earlier compositions included, one using Byzantine chant and another by the troubador Bernart de Ventadorn.
Of the night pieces, Potter insists, "nothing really needs to be said". Whatever the case, the circumstance of their inception is interesting. The group had finished recording what later became Care Charming Sleep, and after enjoying a convivial and relaxed evening, the producer (and moving spirit of the ensemble) Manfred Eicher suggested that they return to the church to record some more. The group agreed, despite having run out of music to play. John Potter however had some medieval poems on him, and these provided the inspiration for what was to follow. He clearly relishes these texts, and his burnished tenor brings them to life with a sometimes startling clarity.
The context of the recording of these pieces is probably important to appreciating the music here; this is an album which captures moments of reflection, bypassing the usual rehearsal and letting inspiration take flight spontaneously, unhindered by secondary considerations which could otherwise weigh it down. Full of the unfamiliar and the strange, this is intensely personal music which will possibly illicit a different response in each listener. A singular recording, it proves yet again that ECM - and Eicher - are still in the vanguard.
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