First, I should provide a disclaimer. I am only an amateur classical music buff, and a beginning classical guitarist, so I cannot provide the definitive critique of this five-disc set; however, I am unable to resist praising this work.
I was already familiar with and a fan of Dowland's music, but I hesitated getting this set, thinking that over five hours of music for the lute and the opharion (a metal-stringed instrument similar to the lute) would be overkill. Instead, I find myself wishing Dowland had lived another lifetime to provide us with even more of his tremendously varied and always exquisite music.
Paul Odette's playing is technically impeccable and unfailingly inspired by creativity. Dowland's manuscripts leave much to the imagination and intepretative genius of the player, and Odette combines faithful rendering with sparkling and virtuoso improvised ornamentation.
What is most important, naturally, is the result: 400 year old music that sounds remarkably contemporary, fresh. This is not to say that Dowland's music is modern, but rather that the composer captures universal qualities of human emotion and aesthetic sensibility. The many moods range from spritely, happy melodies to deeply contemplative and moving meditations. The careful engineering of this recording (typical of Harmonia Mundi releases) lends the performances a crystalline realism that fills the room with shimmering resonance.
This is music to gladden and soothe the soul in these complex and highly technological times, a gift from the past that will thrill and enlighten generations to come.