Philip Pogson spoke with The Marais Project’s Artistic Director, Jenny Eriksson, about the upcoming Marais Project performances of English lute songs on December 3 & 4.
Philip: Jenny, from your perspective as a viol player, why do you believe the music of John Dowland remains so popular?
Jenny: Dowland was a lutenist of course, but he wrote beautifully for the viol. Not as a solo instrument, but as part of a consort made up of treble, tenor, and bass viols. Most of his songs exist in arrangement of viol consort but also for lute and bass viol. Why does the music continue to resonate? It is just so elegant, engaging and wonderfully written. In addition, his melodies are so singable and intimately related to the text. Great 20th century composers for the voice like Benjamin Britten were enormous Dowland fans which I suspect is a tribute to the musical craftsmanship they both valued.
Philip: Are there any challenges for viol players in performing this music?
Jenny: The writing for viols is not virtuosic, unlike that for the lute. Dowland was clearly a first-rate soloist and could ‘shred’, as modern guitarist put it, with the best of his colleagues. This repertoire presents two challenges for the viol. The first is getting the style and balance right. The bass viol is there to support the singer, and underpin the lute player, not to dominate. The second is, there are many errors in the bass lines – even in the facsimile copies – meaning I normally have to edit up my own version.
Philip: Dowland lived quite a turbulent life, including exile to Europe, do you think there is anything special about his later songs that you are performing?
Jenny: The late songs are deep – the works of a mature artist blessed with a profound capacity for reflection on the big issues of life such as love, loss, death, and death’s first cousin, melancholy. The fact that we keep coming back to these works is a mark of their greatness. Like Schubert, Dowland will live on for generations to come. Rehearsing the later songs with artists of the calibre of Koen van Stade and Tommie Andersson has been very special for me.
Philip: Are you familiar with the songs of John Danyel?
Jenny: Not really but one of the benefits of this concert is getting to know him better.
Philip: Finally, do you have a favourite Dowland song?
Jenny: That is like asking a parent to name their favourite child! At ‘A Pilgrime’s Solace’ we are doing some of the more unfamiliar Dowland Songs so the repertoire I can choose from is expanding. My favourite from this concert is ‘In this trembling shadow.’ My overall most favourite song would be ‘Flow my tears.’
The Marais Project performs ‘A Pilgrime’s Solace’ at the Choirs Rehearsal Studio & ADCH
4pm Saturday December 3, 2022 Tickets $24 https://www.australiandigitalconcerthall.com/#/item/100445
3pm Sunday December 4, 2022 | Tickets $45/30 children & students $20
Media: for more information, artist details, photos, review tickets, interviews & more, contact Philip Pogson m: 0412 459 156 e: email@example.com or Jenny Eriksson m: 0412 459 155 e: firstname.lastname@example.org