By Fiona Maddocks, in The Observer
The viol group Fretwork remain supreme interpreters of Dowland, his work central to their repertoire. Their current season includes performances (repeated in Salisbury on 28 May) of his consort collection Lachrimae or Seven Teares (1604), based on his own song Flow my teares which forms the opening pavan. The falling tear motif, probably not Dowland’s own idea, given the fashion for musical displays of sorrow and weeping at the time, occurs repeatedly in the sequence for five viols and single lute. The bowed ensemble sound together against the plucked virtuosities of lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, harmonic suspensions clash in despair and resolve in consolation.
Dowland sums it up best in his dedication, confessing that tears may be unwelcome guests, but “the teares which Musicke weeps” can be pleasant: “neither are teares shed always in sorrow but sometime in joy and gladnesse”. In every sense this ethereal music deserves the keen ears for which it was designed.