Three Lamentations on the Death of John Dowland
for alto flute solo and string orchestra
duration: 22 minutes
premiered on November 23rd, 2003 in Bloomington, Indiana by Kathryn Lukas – Alto Flute, Hebe de Champeaux – Conductor and the IU ad hoc orchestra.
Following the death of my friend Mandy Morris in 2002, I was finding it difficult to compose, or do much else for that matter. Towards the end of the year, I turned to one of my favorite composers – one who relished in writing music with a melancholy theme. This was the renaissance composer John Dowland. Using his music as inspiration, I filtered my own personal pain through his, and created a concerto of lamentations for alto flute and strings. Stylistically, I imagined the string orchestra as one giant consort of viols, and they are asked to mimic the play style and sound as closely as possible.
The first movement, inspired by Dowland’s Flow My Tears, is scored for strings only, and recalls the 5-part choral writing of that time. This movement serves as a kind of prelude.
The second movement was inspired by Dowland’s work for lute, Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens (which translates to Always Dowland, Always Doleful). In this piece, Dowland uses a recurring motif of a two voice, falling canon. I expanded on that idea, creating falling canons of ever greater numbers, culminating in a giant crescendo, aurally depicting a cascading waterfall of tears. The piece also uses many distorted quotations from the Dowland piece itself, as if seen through a foggy, clouded memory.
The third movement is essentially a kind of stylized rendition of Dowland’s blackest song, In Darkness Let Me Dwell, scored for a quartet of alto flute, 2 violas and bass. This movement serves as a kind of quiet and solitary post-lude.
AUDIO: Three Lamentations on the Death of John Dowland – Kathryn Lukas, alto flute – Hebe de Champaeux, conductor