Dowland: Honey from the Hive – Songs for his Elizabethan Patrons

Reviewed on Sat 01 Jun, 2013

Since their first collaboration on record in 1979, Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley have become the preeminent interpreters of John Dowland’s lute songs. So ideally suited is Kirkby’s famously ethereal soprano (supported by Rooley’s delicate accompaniment) to the Elizabethan songwriter’s vocal palette that it is sometimes hard to believe Dowland didn’t actually write them for her in the first place. Recorded in 2004 in Länna Church, Sweden, this pleasantly variegated collection is subtitled 'Songs for his Elizabethan Patrons', and provides singer and lutenist an opportunity to showcase their favoured composer in a variety of moods. Depending on the demands of those who originally commissioned these songs, the notoriously 'doleful' Dowland also reveals himself here to be capable of whimsy ('Fine knacks for ladies') and even some smutty humour ('When Phoebus first did Daphne love'). All of which makes this a fine addition to Kirkby and Rooley’s unrivalled Dowland discography.
–Mark Walker