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Two Dowland Laments by DAVID BRUCE


This piece is an arrangement of two of English Renaissance composer John Dowland's laments: 'Go Crystal Tears'; and perhaps his most famous lament 'Flow my tears' (Lachrimae). They were commissioned by the Austrailian Chamber Orchestra for a series of concerts curated by New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross based on a theme of Chaconnes and Laments. They grew out of my previous collection of Dowland arrangements Tears, Puffes, Jumps and Galliards.

Keeping close to the original songs, I tried to arrange the works to bring out subtle shades in the accompaniment. I was particularly concerned to ensure the two songs worked successfully together. The first adds gentle trills in amongst Dowland's counterpoint, and the second adds flourishes and embellishments from various solists throughout the orchestra and begins with brief violin and cello cadenzas as a way of cleansing the palette between the two songs.

David Bruce, November 2010

Alex Ross writes:

"John Dowland, the master lutenist-composer of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. A man of innately melancholy temperament, the Hamlet of the musical scene, he named one of his pavans Semper Dowland semper Dolens (“Always Dowland, always dolorous”). Yet there is something oddly seductive in his rituals of sorrow: “Go Crystal Tears” and “Flow My Tears”, from Dowland’s First and Second Books of Songs (1597 and 1600), are luxuriously beautiful spaces in which the daily world recedes and time stops for a while. “Flow My Tears” pivots on the same four-note falling motif that occurs in so many laments across history. David Bruce has arranged the Dowland songs for voice and string orchestra, interposing brief cadenzas for solo violin and solo cello to vary the texture."

Press / Latest Reviews

The Ember / Mar 2011
Adam Rivett

Another highlight of the first session of the program were the performances (again utilizing Campbell) of two John Dowland laments. The pieces positively wept. They seemed to hover in amber, still to the point of paralysis. Dowland's reputation as an acquired melancholy taste seemed borne out by the afternoon's selections – rather than lay down lachrymose gush, they simply wept quietly, beautifully." / Mar 2011
Adam Rivett

Using minimal vibrato, Campbell delivered the lines of Dowland's Go crystal tears with the soft swell of a viol in David Bruce's beautiful setting.



for Mezzo-Soprano and String Orchestra

1 Mezzo-Soprano
Strings (5-4-4-3-2)

Duration 10mins
Composed 2011
First performance Austrailian Chamber Orchestra as part of Alex Ross's Listen to This tour March 2011
Commissioned by Austrailian Chamber Orchestra

Past Performances


  • Go Crystal Tears
  • Flow My Tears

Related Posts

 • Lamenting Down Under (10/17/2011)


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