John Dowland: A song in four parts
This setting of a Fulke Greville sonnet, “Who ever thinks or hopes of love for love,” is from the 1597 first edition of English lutenist John Dowland’s First booke of songes.
The Folger collection has always been rich in 16th- and 17th-century music, and one composer especially well represented is the English lutenist John Dowland. This Dowland setting of a Fulke Greville sonnet, “Who ever thinks or hopes of love for love,” is from the 1597 first edition of Dowland’s First booke of songes, an immediate success that was reprinted at least four times over the next 16 years.
Like other songs in the book, this one is arranged so it can be sung either by a solo voice and lute or as a four-part air. The parts are oriented in different directions so that the singers and the lutenist can sit around a table; this way of presenting the piece also means that it fits onto two facing pages, avoiding the need to turn the page in midsong.
Dowland was appointed lutenist at the court of the Danish king, Christian IV, in about 1598. Despite this success, however, he was unable to fulfill his consuming ambition to receive a royal appointment from the English court until 14 years later, in October 1612, when he was made one of King James I’s lutenists. By then, the veteran musician had published several other collections of his works, some purely instrumental. His music continues to be printed and enjoyed today.