Recorded 1997-2000 in Gloucester MA
Guitars: 1974 Michael Cone, 1981 Frank Hasselbacher
A Galliard (on a galliard by Daniel Bacheler) We begin with one of Dowland's most ecstatic galliards which, in spite of its minor key, soars playfully and heroically.
Mrs. Clifton's Almain Mrs. (Lady) Clifton and her husband apparently loaned Dowland money on one or more occasions. The form is typical of Dowland's shorter dance movements, with brilliant divisions (variations) written out for each of two phrases.
Piper's Pavane Captain Digorie Piper was in Queen Elizabeth's navy and assigned to pirate Spanish ships, which he so enjoyed that he took it upon himself to pirate ships from other countries as well. Dowland must have felt a loyal friendship to Piper, as he went ahead and published pieces inscribed to the convicted pirate while employed by King Christian of Denmark -- whose ships had been preyed upon by none other than Captain Piper.
Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard See above for the Piper story. I borrowed some ideas from the 1954 Karl Scheit arrangement of this piece (which did not include the divisions), adding some seasoning of my own.
A Fantasie This is the best known of Dowland's Fantasias. In the repetitive passages halfway through, I hear the conversing groups of winds located in different areas of the performance space as in a Gabrielli canzona.
Melancholy Galliard While this may not initially seem the most melancholy of Dowland's galliards, one can make it so with timing.
The Right Honorable The Lady Clifton's Spirit If not accustomed to the endearing titles used for dance forms during the Elizabethan period, one might assume this piece depicts the antics of a dearly departed Lady Clifton. This is the familiar A-A'-B-B'-C-C' form coupled with a delightful ambiguity of meter and key.
Lady Hunsdon's Puffe This is the second Almain of the collection, and is by far the most serendipitous. In this version, Dowland gives us a four-bar phrase, a division, another four-bar with no division, and concludes with a ten-bar phrase.
Aloe No, this does not have to do with the plant that heals burns, but with a contemporary personage named George Aloe. It presents an eight-bar theme with five divisions.
Forlorn Hope Fancy We must bear in mind -- when distracted by the oxymoron inherent in this title -- that "Fancy" means fantasia. It is based of the same descending chromatic line as is A Fantasia above, which is given similar towards the end. But while the longer Fantasia smolders after its fiery display, Forlorn Hope concludes in full blaze. A man who ends a piece with such energy must still have hope in reserve.
Mrs. Vaux Galliard While this A-B-C form offers no divisions, there so much going on that one might assume that the theme was left out and only divisions retained. Symmetry is avoided in the number of measures per section: 8+7+13.
Mrs. Vaux's Jig How this relates to the previous galliard is less than obvious. The measures also total 28, but they are divided into a scheme of 4(A)+4(A')+4(B)+4(B')+ 6(C)+6(C'). The contour of the opening phrase is similar to the galliard, as is the shift from A minor to C major between the first two sections.
Weep You No More Sad Fountains Being one of Dowland's most beautiful songs, I could not resist arranging it for solo guitar.
Farewell (An "In Nomine") The subtitle of this piece would suggest that it is based on plainsong, and while the Poulton's transcription shows an apparent cantus firmus in half notes throughout, she does not offer its origin. Of all his solo works in the polyphonic style, this one has the greatest diversity of rhythms: be it the sudden doubling of tempo in the first section or the metric feud between voices in the second.
J. S. BACH
This transcription of the uplifting Prelude is based on that of John Duarte. The Sarabande is so richly laden with multiple "stops" in the original, few notes need be added to make for a satisfying guitar texture. Both these movements were intended for my "J. S. plays BACH" CD, but ended up here when I decided to limit that recording to two complete works.
After a bit of coaxing, these two famous pieces found their way, original keys intact, onto my fingerboard. No. 4 required that the second statement of the melody be rendered an octave down. For the "Raindrop Prelude", I tuned the third string up to Ab. ChopinŐs companion George Sand wrote: "His composition of that night was surely filled with raindrops, resounding clearly on the tiles of the Charterhouse, but it had been transformed in his imagination and in his song into tears falling upon his heart from the sky. . . He could sum up, in ten lines that a child could play, poems of boundless exaltation, dramas of unequaled power."
"The Five Fingers" was written in 1921 for use by piano novices. The title reflects the fact that, for sections within each movement, the fingers of the right hand are assigned to one note each. His affection for these pieces is evidenced by the fact that, some forty years later, he orchestrated them into Eight Instrumental Miniatures for Fifteen Players.
"To be in love with the world" was sung by the brother-sister duo Guardabarranco, who I was lucky enough to hear perform in both the U.S. and Nicaragua. While I did not meet Salvador, I did get to chat with sister Katia, who wore an "I Love Chopin" t-shirt. This is followed by an instrumental medley of two typically beautiful inspirations by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez. It is offered here as a prayer that one day the U.S. government will discontinue its policy of inflicting suffering on the Cuban people and instead invite Silvio to play the White House.
Jeffry Hamilton Steele
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