In the sixteenth century, John Dowland (1562 -1626) had the status of the famous contemporary musician with his international career. Even in this time, his songs are rediscovered by pop musicians.
Dowland held a position with the English ambassador in Paris, was invited at the royal courts in Wolfenbüttel and Cassel, travelled through Italy, served as a lutenist at the court of Christian IV of Denmark. Finally, he took a position as a lutenist at the English court. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge granted him bachelorship in music.
Although Dowland composed lots of lute pieces, he is better known for his songs. Many of these songs or “ayres” have two versions, one for solo voice and lute and one for a four-voice ensemble, where the first voice has the melody and the remaining voices provide the harmonies of the lute accompaniment.
His greatest song compositions are characterised by a lute part that is often more than an accompaniment, it is possible to perform these pieces as a lute solo.
Dowlands music was steeped in Elizabethan melancholy. Titles like Sorrow sorrow stay, In darkness let me dwell and Flow my teares clearly show this. The same applies to lute pieces like Semper Dowland semper dolens (Always Dowland, always sad), Lachrymae or seven teares (a collection of seven pavanes) and the Melancholy Galliard.