John Dowland

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John Dowland (today mostly ˈdɑulənd, historically ˈdoʊlənd) (* (according to own information) 1563 possibly in London ; buried February 20, 1626 in St Anne, Blackfriars , London) was an English lutenist , important composer and music editor of the Elizabethan era .


From 1579 to 1584 Dowland was in the service of Henry Cobham , the English ambassador in Paris, and his successor Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham . After unsuccessfully applying to succeed the late royal lutenist John Johnson in 1594 , he went on a one-year trip abroad and initially stayed at the court of Heinrich Julius, Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , and Landgrave Moritz von Hessen in Kassel. Then he wanted to visit Luca Marenzio in Rome. In Florence he learned of the plan of a Catholic group of English exiles to commit an assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth I. He returned to Nuremberg in dismay. From there he wrote a long, disturbed letter to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury , in which he gave detailed information about the conspirators. In late 1596 or early 1597 he returned to London, again in the hope of being employed as court lutenist. But his expectations were dashed again, as his friend and patron Henry Noel died shortly after he wrote a letter asking Dowland to return to England. Dowland's next stay abroad took him to Denmark, where he spent seven financially profitable years from 1598 to 1606 at the court of King Christian IV of Denmark , until he was removed from his post due to major financial difficulties. Dowland dedicated the composition The King of Denmark's Galliard to his patron Christian. After his release he returned to England and worked for a few years with a courtier named Theophilus Howard, Lord Walden . Finally, on October 12 or 28, 1612, he received the long-awaited post as Musician for the lute at the royal court in England, but after this professional success he wrote almost no compositions. After his death - probably January 21, 1626 - he was buried in St Anne's cemetery, Blackfriars , London. The church was destroyed in the great fire in 1666 . One of his most famous lute songs is In darknesse let mee dwell , published in 1610.

John Dowland's son is Robert Dowland , also known as a lutenist and composer , who also published works by his father (such as Queen Elizabeth's Galliard in Variety of Lute Lessons ).


Dowland's musical work includes lute songs (solo songs with lute accompaniment), which are usually performed with three additional voices with a vocal ensemble (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) (ensemble pieces from which voices can be omitted), as well as works for lute solo and works for Viol consort with lute accompaniment.

Dowland's Songs ( Ayres ), published from 1597 onwards, deal with very different subjects. Musically, these are mainly verse songs (for example the three-verse song If my complaints could passions move ), more rarely there are also well-composed pieces. The accompaniment is largely homophonic , but enriched with numerous ornaments . Some songs, such as the famous Flow My Tears or Oh, sweet woods , also contain polyphonically composed passages. The text declamation remains clear throughout, decorations are used as expressive elements. Some of Dowland's lute songs are based on dance forms common at the time.

Dowland's instrumental works are of particular importance. His compositions for viol consort with lute accompaniment mark the first high point in European music history in the development of independent instrumental music. In this context, seven variations on the theme of the Lachrimae Pavane (originally a composition for lute solo, later for the song Flow My Tears and the above-mentioned compositions for viol consort) and the consort version of the lute composition Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens deserve to be mentioned. In both pieces the often melancholy mood of Dowland's works becomes particularly clear, musically emphasized by a comparatively dissonance-rich harmony .

About 100 compositions for solo lute by Dowland have been preserved. They are among the most demanding and mature works for this instrument and are now part of the repertoire of almost all lutenists and classical guitarists.

Works for lute solo


  • Forlorn Hope Fancy
  • Farewell
  • Farewell (To "In Nomine")
  • A Fancy 1
  • A Fancy 2
  • A Fancy 3


  • Piper's Pavan
  • Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
  • Solus Cum Sola
  • Mrs. Brigide Fleetwood's Pavan aka Solus Sine Sola
  • Dr. Case's Pavan
  • resolution
  • Mr. John Langton's Pavan
  • Sir John Langton's Pavan
  • Lachrimæ
  • A Pavan
  • The Lady Russell's Pavan
  • A Pavan


  • Sir John Smith, his Almain
  • Smythes Allmayne
  • Lady Laiton's Almain
  • To Almain
  • Mrs. White's Thing
  • A Piece Without Title
  • Mrs. Nichols' Almain
  • Mrs. Clifton's Almain
  • Lady Hunsdon's puff

Jigs and other pieces in 6/8 time

  • Mrs. Winter's Jump
  • Mrs. White's Nothing
  • Mrs. Vaux's Jig
  • The Shoemaker's Wife
  • Tarleton's Riserrectione (also Tarleton's Resurrection )

Arrangements of ballads

  • Orlando Sieepeth
  • Fortune
  • Complainte
  • Go From My Window
  • Lord Strang's March
  • My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home
  • Walsingham
  • aloe
  • Loth to Depart
  • Robin


  • Captain Digorie Piper's Galliard
  • Dowland 'Galliard
  • John Dowland's Galliard
  • Dowland's First Galliard
  • The Frog Galliard
  • A Galliard (in D minor)
  • Melancholy Galliard
  • Sir John Souch's Galliard
  • A Galliard (to a Galliarde by Daniel Bacheler )
  • Giles Hobie's Galliard
  • A Galliard (in G minor)
  • A Galliard (on Walsingham)
  • Mrs. Vaux Galliard
  • Mr. Langton's Galliard
  • Mignarda
  • A Galliard (in G minor)
  • Mr. Knight's Galliard
  • My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard (an invention for two people on one lute)
  • The Right Honorable The Lord Viscount Lisle His Galliard
  • The Round Battle Galliard
  • The Most High and Mighty Christianus The Fourth King of Denmark , His Galliard
  • The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, Her Galliard
  • Can She Excuse
  • The Right Honorable Robert Earl of Essex, His Galliard
  • The Lady Rich 'Galliard
  • The Right Honorable The Lady Rich, Her Galliard
  • The Earl of Derby 'Galliard
  • The Right Honorable Ferdinando Earl of Derby, His Galliard
  • The Right Honorable The Lady Clifton's Spirit
  • Galliard to Lachrimæ

Song arrangement

  • Come again

Pieces of unknown origin, possibly from Dowland:

  • A fantasia
  • A fancy
  • A dream
  • A Gaillard
  • Mrs. Norrish's Delight
  • A Piece Without Title
  • What If A Day
  • A coy toy
  • Tarleton's Jig


Title page from John Dowland's Lachrimae or Seaven Teares Figured in Seaven Passionate Pavans

The composer Benjamin Britten used Dowland's three-verse song Come Heavy Sleep (e) (from Dowland's first songbook) for his “Nocturnal” (opus 70) for guitar solo (1964), which he wrote for the guitarist Julian Bream . Dowland's Pavane Lachrimæ formed the basis for Britten's Lachrymae: reflections on a song of Dowland , op.48 (1950) for viola and piano, which Britten also arranged for viola and string orchestra as op.48a in 1974. In 1953, Bernard Stevens memorialized his admiration for the Renaissance composer with a Fantasia on a Theme of Dowland for violin and piano.

A multi-volume complete sheet music edition of all Dowland songs for voice and guitar, edited by Werner J. Wolff, has been published by the Austrian music publisher Doblinger. There is also an edition in the German PRIM-Musikverlag as a multi-volume lied complete edition for voice & guitar (optionally also as a one-volume hardcover).

The folk metal band Subway to Sally used passages from Dowland's Flow my Tears for their song Syrah on the album Bannkreis .

In October 2006 the pop musician Sting and the Bosnian lute player Edin Karamazov released the CD "Songs From The Labyrinth" on the classic label Deutsche Grammophon , on which he plays and sings some of Dowland's works. Lines from letters from Dowland to Earl Robert Cecil von Sting are also read. This interpretation was also received critically.


  • Christian Kelnberger: Text and music with John Dowland. An investigation into the vocal compositions of the most important lute virtuoso of the English Renaissance . 2nd Edition. Stutz, Passau 2004, ISBN 3-88849-207-6 , (also: Munich, Univ., Diss., 1999).
  • Diana Poulton : John Dowland. Faber Music, London 1970; 2nd edition ibid 1982.
  • Diana Poulton: John Dowland (1563-1626) and Lachrimae. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 1, 1979, No. 2, pp. 10-18.
  • Jürgen Bieler: Lute songs by John Dowland: Forms and versions. In: Guitar & Lute. Volume 9, 1987, No. 2, pp. 29-34.

Online sheet music and recordings

Web links

Commons : John Dowland  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files


  1. In England the predominant pronunciation is probably ˈdɑulənd (cf. Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary 1972 and Oxford Learner's Dictionary (online)). There are also ˈdɑulən and ˈduːlən (d). Significant references from Dowland's time speak for ˈdoʊlənd, for example the rhyme used by Dowland himself "Semper Dowland - semper dolens" cf. "Works for Lute" in this article. In detail cf. the "Talk" page in the English Wikipedia.
  2. The place of birth is not clearly known, but some church records in London in the 16th century show the name Dowland. Source: Biography of Dowland on ( Memento of the original from April 5, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Other sources also give Dalkey near Dublin as the place of birth. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, UK ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , US ISBN 0-8256-9950-9 , p. 87.
  4. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, UK ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , US ISBN 0-8256-9950-9 , pp. 88 f.
  5. Ulrich Olshausen : The lute-accompanied solo song in England around 1600. Phil. Dissertation, Frankfurt am Main 1963.
  6. ^ The first Booke of Songes or Ayres of future parts with Tableture for the Lute [...]. London (printed by Peter Short) 1597.
  7. See also Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, UK ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , US ISBN 0-8256-9950-9 , p. 91 f. ( Lady Hunsdon's Alman , signed by Dowland as a "Bachelor of Musick").
  8. Frederick Noad: The Renaissance Guitar. (= The Frederick Noad Guitar Anthology. Part 1) Ariel Publications, New York 1974; Reprint: Amsco Publications, New York / London / Sydney, UK ISBN 0-7119-0958-X , US ISBN 0-8256-9950-9 , p. 100 f.