John Dowland (1563 - 1626) was an English lutenist and composer. He was lutenist to Christian IV of Denmark (1598-1606) and James I of England (1612 until his death). In addition to composing lute solos, Dowland also published 4 books of lute songs. 88 Dowland lute songs and 90 of his lute instrumental compositions survive. In 1597, Dowland published his First Book of Songs or Ayres of Foure Parts with Tableture for the Lute... It appears Dowland had a rather significant fan base, as this book was reprinted 5 times during his lifetime! Scroll down to check out performances of some First Book material.
Cover page of Dowland's First Book of Songs (1597)
Contents page of Dowland's First Book of Songs. This is a "greatest hits" list from 1597.
Facsimile of Now O Now, from Dowland's First Book. Note the original is for a 7-course lute.
Facsimile of Wilt Thou Unkind Thus Reave Me, from Dowland's First Book. In the lyrics text, note the use of "ii" to indicate a phrase to be repeated. Appears even John Dowland tried to save money on printing costs... No 7th course is required in the lute part for this song, so a 6-course lute, vihuela or 6-string guitar can handle this piece without modification.
Now O Now is one of my favorite Dowland songs. I still haven't really decided which one is my favorite, but it could be this one... Check out this video of me and Gwen (an excellent vocalist from Nottinghill Coill in Atlantia, known in the SCA as Lady Cornelia Caeciliana) performing Now O Now back in 2011.
Performance of Now O Now. Lady Cornelia Caeciliana vocals, Johann von Solothurn guitar.
Now that you've heard the song, check out my recording of Dowland's Frog Galliard below. You should hear some similarities! Dowland recycled melodies from his lute instrumentals for some of his lute songs (or vice versa). Frog Galliard and Now O Now share the same melody. The Frog Galliard is included in the Dowland Folger MS, dated c. 1590. In the performance of Now O Now above, I used selections from the Frog Galliard as intro and outtro guitar solos.
The video below is a performance of Wilt Thou Unkind at Nottinghill Coill Baronial Birthday in 2011. Once again, the vocalist who carried this performance is Lady Cornelia Caeciliana.
Wilt Thou Unkind Thus Reave Me, performed by Lady Cornelia Caeciliana (vocals) and Johann von Solothurn (guitar)