Sting plucks lute composer from obscurity

It has taken him about 400 years, but the Elizabethan composer John Dowland has finally achieved a number one hit, with the help of a 21st-century superstar.

An album of Dowland's Elizabethan lute music, which has been taken up by Sting, has gone straight to the top of the classical album chart, leaving the likes of Bach and Beethoven effortlessly in its wake.

For good measure, Songs from the Labyrinth also entered the pop album chart at a respectable number 24, rubbing shoulders with releases by Razorlight and Scissor Sisters. Dowland may not be the best-known early music composer, but Sting has been a fan for more than 25 years, describing his muse as the earliest known example of the "alienated singer-songwriter". The former Police frontman said Dowland's compositions "are pop songs and I relate to them in that way; beautiful melodies, fantastic lyrics and great accompaniments". Song titles such as "Flow my tears" and "Weep you no more, Sad fountains" suggest an early exponent of the kind of angst and melancholy found in such classic Police tracks as "Can't stand Losing You".

Explaining his journey back in time, Sting said: "I feel that my job as a pop artist is to develop as a musician, and to bring into my sphere elements that aren't necessarily pop, more complex intervals, complex time signatures." In making an album of early music, he follows in the footsteps of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello who have also recorded classical works.

Sting was first encouraged to record the collection of Dowland's music by a friend, the French classical pianist Katia Labeque, and he is accompanied on the album by the Bosnian lute virtuoso Edin Karamazov. The move into classical music marks his latest incarnation in a 30-year career in music. After turning his back on his first career as a school teacher, Sting became an icon of the New Wave with the Police. Early classics such as " Message in a Bottle" and Don't Stand so Close to me" stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. When the Police broke up, Sting re-invented himself as a jazz-tinged singer songwriter with a string of solo albums. A growing interest in the Elizabethan world was hinted at in his second album Nothing Like the Sun which took its title from Shakespeare's Sonnet number 130.

The latest album has had a mixed critical reception. One reviewer complained that the music was ruined with "a bewildering garnish of special effects, multi-tracking, and misguided arrangements," and concluded that the collection is "both much better and much worse than could be imagined,"

But whatever the critical reception, a number one spot is certain to ensure an explosion of interest in Dowland, about whose personal life little is so far known, although his Lachrimae - a collection of pavans, galliards and other dance music - has become one of the most recorded collections of the early instrumental music repertoire.

Born in 1563, Dowland converted to Catholicism in his teens and was unable to find work in the court of the staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I. After travelling through Italy for several years, he landed a post at the court of Christian IV of Denmark. He returned to England after Elizabeth's death and eventually secured work with James I.

Perhaps anticipating objection from classical music purists, Sting has sought to present Dowland's work as the pop music of its time.

"I'm not a trained singer for this repertoire, but I'm hoping that I can bring some freshness to these songs that perhaps a more experienced singer wouldn't give," he said

A spokesman for classical record label Deustche Grammophon, which released Sting's album, said it hoped the album would raise the profile of Dowland's work.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    Any direct connection with the conflict has gone but we’re not ready to consign it to history, says John Lichfield
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star