If you’re going to be miserable, you might as well enjoy it.

John Dowland, whose 450th anniversary falls this year, rather cornered the market during his lifetime in a celebration of that most renaissance of conditions – melancholy.

That the songs retain their emotional impact today is in part down to developments in early music performance practice, exemplified here by Emma Kirkby and Jacob Heringman, the world’s finest Dowland interpreters, plus three younger duos representing the next generation.

Though purity of tone and intonation are still paramount, the sexless choral-scholar sound has grown up into a richer, more sensual appreciation of all that lies beneath these long phrases with a dying fall.

Kirkby’s ear for poetry, as much as for music, together with the confidence of experience, allowed her and Heringman almost to jazz songs such as I saw My Lady Weep. Soprano Gwendolen Martin had anguish and bare-faced cheek in equal measure and Anna Thunström’s glacial tone nevertheless had a deliciously sexy undercurrent, while lutenist Niki Andronikou played Dowland’s Praeludium with profound emotional intensity.

As if to illustrate exactly what Dowland was about, and providing a neat baton-passing moment, Heringman and Andronikou performed a galliard for two players on the same lute, requiring one player – in order to reach the instrument – to embrace the other.