If the court of Elizabeth I could be compared to a bee-hive, John Dowland was one of its workers, tirelessly bringing in news from the Continent which he constantly visited, and as tirelessly producing the spiritual sustenance vital for the court's existence. It is this honey that Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley have gathered in an imaginative recital that focuses on Dowland's relationship to his various patrons – among them Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.
Here's an easy call: these are the finest recordings of these works currently available. In reviewing the individual releases, I had perhaps one small reservation concerning the disc containing Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, but this evaporates in the face of the achievement as a whole. Both cycles, the Bachianas Brasileiras and the Choros, constitute two of the most original, colorful, and enjoyable collections of works by any 20th-century composer. They belong in every serious record collection, and they have never been so consistently well performed and recorded. At last, Villa-Lobos' compatriots have managed to do his quirky genius full justice. The excellent disc of solo guitar music makes a fine and thoughtful bonus, and at seven discs for the price of three, you'd have to be insane not to grab this set immediately.