The composition of Lachrimae Pavans, one of the great works in the canon of English chamber music, was begun in Denmark at the end of the 16th century, while John Dowland was working as a lutenist at the court of King Christian IV. A unique seven-part work developing a theme from Dowland’s famous song “Flow my teares” and exploring all its contrapuntal and harmonic possibilities, it is also music of persuasive emotional power. “How well he seems to have understood the power of music to move us,” writes John Holloway in the liner notes, and “to express otherwise inexpressible emotions. He called them ‘passionate pavans’, and within the stately constrained movements of the slow dance, passions are indeed to be found.”
The music, according to the title page of the folio volume, is “set forth for the lute, viols or violons”. Choosing to emphasize “violons” Holloway and company play the Dowland Pavans on four violas and bass violin; “As has been said of Dowland, his greatest works are inspired by a deeply felt tragic concept of life and a preoccupation with tears, sin, darkness and death. With that in mind, the choice of instruments made itself.”
In this recording, produced by Manfred Eicher at Zürich’s Radio Studio, John Holloway and his ensemble juxtaposed the Pavans with other pieces by Dowland’s contemporaries, in a programme with strong contrasts of character and sound colour – from Purcell’s extraordinary “Fantasy upon one note” to Thomas Morley’s haunting “Lament” – evoking the great flowering of English instrumental consort music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
John Holloway took up baroque violin in the early 1970s. With his baroque ensemble, L’Ecole d’Orphée, he made the first complete recording on historical instruments of Händel’s instrumental chamber music. Since then his growing chamber music and solo discography has ranged from Castello and Fontana to Vivaldi, Telemann and beyond. Since 1997 he has recorded for ECM New Series, with acclaimed albums including The Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo by Bach.
Holloway is one of the most experienced concertmasters in the Early Music world, having led orchestras for such diverse directors as Christie, Hogwood, Leonhardt, Koopman, Malgoire, McGegan. He was for many years concertmaster of Roger Norrington’s London Classical Players and of Andrew Parrott’s Taverner Players, leading groundbreaking performances and recordings of repertoire from the Florentine Intermedii to Brahms symphonies. This has in turn led to numerous projects featuring Holloway as conductor and/or director from the violin, in repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Britten.
He has taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, the Schola Cantorum in Basel, the Early Music Institute of Indiana University in Bloomington, and the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden, Germany. From 2006 to 2012 he was Artistic Director of the International Competition and Masterclass "Violin in Dresden".
Monika Baer studied with Robert Zimansky at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève and with John Holloway in Dresden. She is a member of the Zurich Opera House Orchestra, and the baroque orchestra La Scintilla. From 1999-2004 she was concertmaster of the Basel Chamber Orchestra working with conductors including Hogwood, Herreweghe, and Antonini.
Renate Steinmann studied violin and viola at the Musikhochschule Winterthur, and took courses in historical performance practice with John Holloway, Thomas Hengelbrock, and Elizabeth Wallfisch. She is concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Bach Foundation St. Gallen and the Zurich baroque orchestra Musica Inaudita, and a member of the Basel Chamber Orchestra and Ensemble Turicum.
Susanna Hefti studied at the Academy of Music in Zurich with Christoph Schiller, with emphasis on historical performance practice and contemporary music. One of the leading Swiss viola players, she regularly performs with La Scintilla and Orchestra Stella Maris. She is viola section leader in the St. Gallen Chamber Ensemble, and since its founding in 2006, principal violist of the Orchestra of the Bach Foundation St. Gallen.
Martin Zeller studied cello at the Zurich Art Academy with Markus Stocker and Claude Starck, and in London with William Pleeth, making further studies in baroque cello with Christophe Coin and viola da gamba with Paolo Pandolfo. Zeller is principal cellist of the Basel Chamber Orchestra. He has played with I Barrocchisti Lugano, I Suonatori della Gioiosa Marca, Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, Orchestre des Champs- Elysées, La Scintilla and Capella Gabetta, and is a member of the viol consort Trio Lupo.