Despite the Swedish label for which this disc was recorded, and despite the Swedish origins of the group's leader, the Dowland Consort is English. It has a lot of competition in the realm of instrumental music by John Dowland, but less so for the seven linked pieces that open the program, based on the material used in the famous lute song Seven Teares. (This disc was originally recorded in 1985.) These seven pieces (and the pair of sevens would have had deep significance for Dowland's audience) are unique in Renaissance instrumental music.
Both the music and this actual product are masterpieces. John Dowland's collected works here - covering 12 compact discs - exhibit the depth and power of this composer, a composer who many now regard as suffering from clinical depression. I doubt that the issue of the diagnosis of Dowland's depression can ever be settled, however, it is certainly obvious from his music, so completely on display here, that he was a man with very dark depths and corners in his mind. Dowland's various manifestations and "takes" on his own tune, "Flow my tears"/"Lachrimae" are here. This tune has haunted me ever since I first heard it when I was a child. It seems to sum up Dowland's feelings - at least Dowland seems to have thought so.
The story revolves around Hassan, who is studying Arabic calligraphy from a grand master. Coming across a fragment of manuscript, Hassan goes in search of the missing pieces, believing that once he finds them, he will learn the secrets of love. With the help of Zin, a lovers’ go-between, he meets the beautiful Aziz, Princess of Samarkand. After encountering wars, a battle between false prophets and an ancient curse, he learns that an entire lifetime would not suffice for him to learn the many dimensions of love.