Chamber Prom 8 fielded a dream team. With Dowland songs delivered by tenor Ian Bostridge, lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, and the viol consort Fretwork, what’s not to like? And Dowland’s star is currently rising, having been given a boost in the wider world by Sting’s lute-accompanied recordings. For Sting, at whose launch-recital Bostridge was seen politely applauding, Dowland was a musician for our times, ‘an alienated singer-songwriter’; for Fretwork’s leader Richard Boothby, Dowland is ‘up there with Purcell and Lennon and McCartney’.
Dowland’s lyrics may be condensed, but they have an emotional directness which Bostridge made his own. Sitting in the middle of the group, and singing as if chatting to friends, he followed all the cues in Dowland’s word-setting. Beginning with the agonised “Can she excuse my wrongs”, he went on to darken his tone for “Flow, my tears”, and to flatten the notes, as though broken by grief, in “Sorrow, stay”.
But when the music evoked the excitement of sex – “To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die” – he found the right register for that too. Kenny’s lute solos had an intimacy, and Fretwork’s sound a plangency, which ideally set off Bostridge’s art. After the first encore – Kenny’s transcription of a song from Britten’s underrated opera “Gloriana” – they did a second, clearly as keen to carry on, as we were for them to do so.
3rd September 2013