Dallas Morning News
June 4, 2005
Dowland: A Dream - Hopkinson Smith (Naive E 8896): A-
Partly because his name made a Latin pun for "sorrowing," John Dowland had a reputation for being a glum type. You'd never know it from this delightful sampler of his lute pieces.
Hopkinson Smith, a Harvard grad who has made most of his career in Europe, has never turned his attention to English music before. The prince of contemporary lutenists, he takes what might seem a cavalier approach to the texts – decorating them and playing with an imperial freedom.
You probably won't mind at all, because this recital is full of beautiful tunes and toe-tapping rhythms. In this era, when the guitar is the reigning instrument, the harder-edged but essentially similar sound of the lute should have wide appeal all on its own.
Dowland was a great writer of songs, and many of these pieces originally had lyrics. Think of this as an "unplugged" pop star's acoustic songbook, and you will have the right cultural context. It's just that the songbook is 400 years old.