is pleased to present the twenty-fourth annual
Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival®
in cooperation with the fifth annual
James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition
hosted at and with support from the
Cleveland Institute of Music
June 6 - 9, 2024

Review: 10th annual Classical Guitar Weekend: lutenist Nigel North at Mixon Hall (May 21, 2010) by Daniel Hathaway

[One of] two of the most important annual American classical guitar events
(Classical Guitar Magazine)

The first of four artist recitals in last weekend's Classical Guitar Weekend -- presented by Guitars International in cooperation with the Cleveland Institute of Music -- brought not a guitarist but the lutenist Nigel North to the stage of Mixon Hall for an all John Dowland program.

One of the lovely aspects of a festival -- as this weekend surely was -- is the freedom both to explore a range of music based on a theme or to go deep into a certain topic, like the lute songs and solo works of an English composer who was almost exactly William Shakespeare's contemporary. Hearing twenty-six pieces by one composer on a single program might ordinarily send one screaming from the room, but in the case of Elizabethan music as varied in texture and sensibility as Dowland's, it becomes a rare kind of pleasure.

Mr. North, born and educated in England but currently teaching in the early music department at Indiana University, assembled a program of Almains, Lachrimae's, Galliards, Fancye's, Fantasies, In Nomine's, Corantos and songs, grouping them more or less continuously into sets. The performer, almost as soft spoken as his seven course Renaissance Lute (after an instrument from 1590), gave charming spontaneous verbal notes in addition to two full pages of written notes in the program book.

Lute concerts (like clavichord recitals) are problematic. One really should be hearing this music at a distance of no more than ten feet from the player; even in the fine acoustics of Mixon Hall, the sound of a lute is a distant experience. Given that Mr. North is a performer who brings great subtlety and nuance to this repertory, you miss a lot in a concert hall setting.

Nonetheless, and in spite of Dowland's reputation for musical melancholy, this program was full of things to admire and cherish. The Fantasie was rich with dialogues and contrasts, the "battle galliard" called The King of Denmark brought a bit of fury into the first half, and chromatic pieces broke the prevailing mood of dance music from time to time. Mr. North was completely in control of the technique and expressiveness this music requires.

Described in the notes as "a man with a rather difficult complaining character" who nonetheless was praised and honored by his contemporaries, Dowland left a rich legacy of Elizabethan music behind. Thanks to Classical Guitar Weekend for allowing us to immerse ourselves in so much of it in a single concert.

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