In the course of the 16th century the lute gradually broke away from its old role. Within a few decades, it rose from an accompanying instrument to a solo instrument, for which numerous works were written and published in its own style.
England played a pioneering role. One form of composition that developed only here at that time was the “Ayre”, whose special feature was that it consisted of a dominant upper voice. It could also be sung, whereby the singers took over the upper voice and were accompanied by the lute.
Her most important representative was John Dowland, who soon gained a reputation as one of the most important composers, singers and lutenists of his time due to his extensive travels across the continent. His works were so popular that they were printed and performed in all major European cities.
In the Ayres he illustrates his ability to transform the mood and emotion of a poetic text into music. He succeeds best with rather gloomy texts, such as the famous “In darknesse let mee dwell” with its passionately intense tone painting.
But most important is certainly his song “Flow my teares”, which in its version for solo lute as “Lachrimae” (“Tears”) is still one of his most famous works.