Monday, 25 September 2017

Dowland: Fantasie (P 5)

The last 4 lines of the beautifully clear calligraphy in the Cosens Lute Book in Cambridge University Library.

Having essayed JD's challenging chromatic fantasies in the previous two posts, with mixed success, I thought I'd have a go at transcribing this diatonic fantasy, which has less surprising harmonies. It is quite short, just 35 bars. The original was set in Dm/D, but as I have maintained the original fingerings as much as possible it is in Em/E in this transcription.

The first theme consists of 2 bars of descending scale, 2 bars ascending and then 2 bars descending again. The rest of the piece includes, according to Poulton, of "fragments of the scale in decorative patterns". In some places (bars 18 – 20) the notes are doubled, which does help us in the execution. In bars 21 – 23 we have arpeggios which can be played (almost) by holding chord shapes. In bars 26 – 28 the rhythm changes to 12/8 time - this is not very obvious in the tabs. Bars 33 & 34 are good fun to play.

Transcribing the piece was not excessively challenging as much of the upper two voices fitted on to the top four strings, although I did have to do some octave jumping to fit in the lower notes when the arrangement seemed thin.

I had made a resolution to make simpler versions of the arrangements, but found that with the fantasies in particular there is not the familiar pattern of:
   (a) a plain statement of each theme and accompaniment, followed by
   (b) a more elaborate development on the theme, often with rapidly-played divisions;
   (c) and sometimes further themes following the same pattern.
In pieces in other formats (dances, songs, etc.) this allows me to transcribe the main statements, sometimes in simplified form and omit all the twiddly bits. The looser structure of the fantasies (or fancies) does not really lend itself to such treatment.

In trying to simplify this piece, I found myself merely deleting the second voice, and then it occurred to me that (with few exceptions) for a simple version one merely has to play only those notes with stems pointing up. Indeed, this is what I do to familiarise myself with a piece, and sometimes as far as I can get with difficult pieces. However, I think that if not played too fast this fantasy should be possible with enough practice and patience.

Available free in the following formats:
  • pdf (quick preview.)
  • pdf (instant download)
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI (very unsubtle, but don't let this spoil your appreciation of Dowland's writing.)

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I hope you enjoy these arrangements. I would welcome your views, and comments on possible errors or improvements.