John Dowland was a famous sixteenth century lutenist and composer. His playing of the lute was demanded all over Europe, and as a result he travelled a lot. Most of his compositions were improvisations, but since they were written down, we still have several big collections in manuscript form.
What is interesting about innocent lute player John is that he was also recruited as a spy for the Crown. He worked for Robert Cecil, the spymaster of Elizabeth I Queen of England, and in that capacity it was useful he was invited to the royal courts on the continent.
Dowland is better known for his songs though. Flow my tears and Come heavy sleepe, the image of true death among others have been inspiration to many later musicians and writers. Sting has made an album inspired by Dowland’s work, as did the Dutch band Focus. Closer to classical repertoire, Benjamin Britten re-imagined Dowland in a nocturne for guitar.
So Dowland is important, sure, but what about this enormous box of recordings? After five records full of his lute works, I cannot hear them anymore. I’m overluted.