Reviews

GMCD 7341 – Remembrance Of Things Past

Theresa Bothe – voice, Peter Croton – lute
Special guest Derek Lee Ragin – voice

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American Record Guide Januar/Februar 2011

Peter Croton and Theresia Bothe have worked together for some years now, and they have a fine partnership. Bothe has a good voice for these songs – pure and sweet. Peter Croton has written a number of lute songs of his own, and some are presented here. By way of contrast with the Dowland, at least, they sound very modern, sharp, and spiky. I don’t have a very high capacity for dissonance, so they are not my favorites, but I do rather like the whimsical setting for Shakespeare’s ‘While you here do snoring lie’ from The Tempest. Some listeners may have heard Derek Lee Ragin, an American countertenor, in what is probably his best known role: the voice of the  famous castrato in the movie Farinelli. Ragin, too, has worked with Croton for some years, and he makes a special guest appearance on this program, but as a baritone, singing in three of Croton’s compositions. One of these is a setting of the words for ‘Now, O now I needs must part’, the second best Croton piece here. This release will probably be most interesting to people who like to explore modern music in older musical forms. If you are looking for Dowland, plenty of other choices present a wider range.
CRAWFORD

Lauten Info Februar 2010

Der Titel dieser CD sollte auf den Leser des Lauten-Info vertraut wirken: Remembrance of things past lautet auch die Druck-Veröffentlichung von vier Shakespeare-Vertonungen Peter Crotons, die Rainer Luckhardt im Lauten-Info 2009/3 auf S. 31 besprochen hat. Zwei dieser Vertonungen sind nun auch auf dieser Aufnahme enthalten, und eine davon gibt ihr den Titel: Shakespeare’s Sonett Nr. 30, „When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past“. Ein Dowland’sches Preludium (Poulton Nr. 98) und „Sleep wayward thoughts“ (wie auch andere der Dowland-Lieder mit einem Instrumentalvorspiel von Croton versehen) und einige weitere von Crotons Liedkompositionen rahmen eine Gruppe von zwölf Liedern des englischen Altmeisters. Die Aufnahme ist im vorigen Jahr in Basel in einem Raum entstanden, der – wie Peter Croton im Textheft zur CD schreibt – alten, holzgetäfelten Räumen gleicht und damit eine direkte Klangwiedergabe begünstigt. Crotons siebenchörige, mit Nylgut bezogene Laute klingt denn auch sehr „nah“, und Theresia Bothes klare Stimme schwebt mit einer beinahe schon körperlichen Präsenz zwischen den Lautsprechern. Die Klarheit und Intensität der instrumentalen und vokalen Artikulation des hervorragend eingespielten Duos konnten die Besucher des diesjährigen Lautenfestivals in Füssen in einem mitreißenden Konzert mit spanischer und italienischer Musik erleben. Hier widmen sich beide Dowlands vierstimmigen Liedkompositionen durchweg als Sololiedern. Bei den meisten dieser Stücke funktioniert das (bekanntermaßen) sehr gut, nur in „Say love if ever thou didst find“ wird man das spaßhafte theatrale Spiel mit Textpassagen, die die einzelnen Stimmen sich zuwerfen, vermissen. Manche der Lieder funktionieren überhaupt nur als Sololied gut, „Come heavy Sleep“ aus dem First Booke of Songs ist ein solcher Fall und dazu eine Herausforderung, sich zum Verhältnis von Druckfassung und Intention des Komponisten Gedanken zu machen. Die etwas irritierende  Zeile „Come and possesse my tired thoughts, worne soule“ hat früh in der modernen Rezeption und Aufführung zu einer Konjektur geführt, der auch hier gefolgt wird: „Come and possesse my tired thought-worn soule“. Die drei Schluss-Stücke der CD sind wieder Kompositionen von Peter Croton, bei denen sich der Sänger Derek Lee Ragin, mit dem Croton auch früher schon zusammengearbeitet hat, zu Croton und Bothe dazugesellt: The Waking, die Vertonung eines Gedichts des amerikanischen Dichters und Pulitzer-Preisträgers Theodore Roethke (1908–1963), Quietness, eine Vertonung von Worten des mittelalterlichen persischen Dichters Rumi, und das letzte Stück, Crotons kompositorische Hommage an Dowland: „Now, O now I needs must part“. Crotons eher moderne, aber nicht avantgardistische Tonsprache wechselt hier in das Fach des komponierten Folksongs – ein leichter Anklang an das Ballad Book von Joan Baez stellt sich durchaus angenehm ein. Die ganze CD ist ein ausgezeichnetes Beispiel für ein perfektes Zusammenspiel von Sänger/n und Begleiter, für die zeitlose Schönheit des Liedschaffens von John Dowland und nicht zuletzt für Peter Crotons kompositorisches Geschick, zu dem seine Erfahrungen in Jazz und Folk hörbar etwas beitragen.
Joachim Lüdtke

International Record Review March 2010

Dowland’s lute songs, printed as they were with the top voice and lute tablature on one page and the remaining alto, tenor and bass parts on the other, have always lent themselves to different modes of performance, from solo voice and lute to various combinations of vocal and instrumental ensembles. In addition, Dowland’s numerous lute divisions based on the same tunes give players the option of providing extended preludes and interludes to the songs. Such is the case here, with the difference being that guitarist, lutenist, teacher and    ‘ composer Peter Croton has arranged his own solo lute parts after the manner of Dowland, the only solo by Dowland himself being the opening Preludium. In addition to his own    ‘ compositions, five of which are also recorded here, Croton enjoys exploring different styles, including folk, jazz and Latin with his regular performing partner since 2003, Theresia Bothe, whose purity of tone and manner of declamation ensure complete intelligibility of the text at all times. Though that sounds rather prosaic, Bothe has learned as much from singing folk and pop as she has from poring over ancient singing treatises, and the lucidity and flexibility of her interpretations are as a result far ahead of most `straight’ classical artists. The same could be said for Croton, whose playing has a freedom and musicality usually heard only from improvising jazz and pop musicians. Pretty much every item here is a gem: Croton’s setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXX, which gives the disc its title, is a masterpiece of subtle word-painting; it is also wholly successful in creating a sense of genuine strangeness through the contrasting of the contemporary style of the music with the antiquity both of the text and the lute. The set of three songs which ends the disc – settings of a Theodore Roethke poem, a text by Rumi and Now, 0 now I needs must part (the Dowland setting of which is also on the disc) – were written by Croton for Bothe and long-time collaborator Derek Lee Ragin, a countertenor who here makes his recording debut as a baritone. A personal tribute to Dowland, they draw on earlier compositional procedures while being utterly of our own time. Bothe and Ragin complement each other perfectly, both vocally and musically.
Other highlights include Go crystal tears, Time stands still, Sorrow stay, Flow my tears and Come heavy sleep, in all of which Bothe’s pellucid voice floats ethereally over Croton’s masterfully executed accompaniments without ever once losing sight of the emotional core of each poem. The only obvious comparisons that come to mind here are with the young Emma Kirkby with Anthony Rooley and, more recently, Carolyn Sampson with Matthew Wadsworth. This is a wonderful disc that successfully evokes the way we live now with a remembrance of things past.
Robert Levett

Allmusic.com

Review
This is a very unorthodox recording of John Dowland’s lute songs, emphatically not the right choice for a basic introduction. It’s experimental in several ways, or at least three, really. That’s usually a very risky thing; experiments are best undertaken against a backdrop of solidly mastered technique. That said, there are absolutely compelling moments here, and this disc belongs in any serious Dowland collection or in that of anyone who simply enjoys speculative modes of performance. The designer of the performance seems to be lutenist Peter Croton, who treats the Dowland songs in various ways: playing them straight, ornamenting them, and adding preludes and central sections. The most immediately unusual thing general listeners may notice is the voice of soprano Theresia Bothe, who was born in Canada to Irish and German parents and raised in Mexico. Perhaps her absolutely distinctive sound has to do with her Mexican background. Her singing is almost vibrato-free (vibrato creeps in as a feathery ornament at phrase ends or as a point of emphasis elsewhere), spot-on accurate when it comes to pitch, and yet well supported from below with just a hint of roughness. It is not a “pure” voice, but it is nevertheless suited to the pitch demands of Dowland’s music. Bothe may be a matter of taste, but for some listeners she’ll be a matter of serious addiction. If all this is not enough, Croton composes new lute songs loosely based on Renaissance models where the tonality and phrasing are pushed, but the idiom is recognizable. These are quite curiously placed: there are two at the beginning of the program, alternating with Dowland pieces, and a set of three at the end, sung not by Bothe but by African American countertenor Derek Lee Ragin*, also a compelling and distinctive vocalist. In between it’s all Dowland. This feels random, but there are plenty of really gorgeous moments along the way, and the entire disc benefits from an X-factor related to genuine risk-taking. Sample Bothe’s absolutely limpid take on Go crystal tears (track 8), or Croton’s original setting of Theodore Roethke’s poem “The Waking” (track 17), which, like the other Croton pieces, is a world premiere. Add in unusually good lute-song sound that is absolutely clear with a minimum of fuss from Switzerland’s Guild label, and you have a really noteworthy offbeat release.
*Note from Guild: the three songs at the end are duos sung by Theresia Bothe and Derek Lee Ragin.
James Manheim

Lute Society of America Quarterly – Volume XLV, No. 2 Summer, 2010

“This is a disc of many colors. Croton is firmly versed in the lute’s culture and history but has happily succumbed to the modern pull of his love of song, so the CD flits between our age and Dowland’s. Where Croton takes printed texts for his own compositions he is the renaissance composer, albeit with modern notes and rhythms. Where he sets Dowland’s songs to the lute where no lute solo existed before, he sets them with the uncanny wit and style of an anonymous scribe in a renaissance manuscript. “Sorrow stay,” for example, would be a delight for any lute soloist if conveniently found in some ancient book. Derek Lee Ragin’s tenor is another exciting contrast of modern song – especially in Dowland’s “Now, oh now” – with a perfectly subtle renaissance sensibility, in contrast to soprano Theresia Bothe’s modern shaping of voice. Croton offers two visions of this song: once with Dowland’s melody with Bothe’s forthright soprano and the other in Croton’s setting, replete with bold strokes of calms and clashes, familiar rhythms against dissonance and resolution.
Thus the music dances on both shores of the 400-year ocean that divides these ages. Croton builds his sound on a light Gottlieb lute with modern wound strings, with a sustain that echoes Bothe’s long soprano lines. Croton intrepidly reaches for every bit of nuance in the poems of Roethke and Shakespeare, much as Dowland approached the poets of his day. This is an exciting record, though perhaps not for those of our current HIP persuasion.”
Sean Smith

Deutsche Lautengesellschaft  Lauten-Info 2/2010

„Der Titel dieser CD sollte auf den Leser des Lauten-Info vertraut wirken: Remembrance of things past lautet auch die Druck-Veröffentlichung von vier Shakespeare-Vertonungen Peter Crotons, die Rainer Luckhardt im Lauten-Info 2009/3 auf S. 31 besprochen hat. Zwei dieser Vertonungen sind nun auch auf dieser Aufnahme enthalten, und eine davon gibt ihr den Titel: Shakespeare’s Sonett Nr. 30, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up
remembrance of things past”. Ein Dowland’sches Preludium (Poulton Nr. 98) und “Sleep wayward thoughts” (wie auch andere der Dowland-Lieder mit einem Instrumentalvorspiel von Croton versehen) und einige weitere von Crotons Liedkompositionen rahmen eine Gruppe von zwölf Liedern des englischen Altmeisters.
Die Aufnahme ist im vorigen Jahr in Basel in einem Raum entstanden, der – wie Peter Croton im Textheft zur CD schreibt – alten, holzgetäfelten Räumen gleicht und damit eine direkte Klangwiedergabe begünstigt. Crotons siebenchörige, mit Nylgut bezogene Laute klingt denn auch sehr ,,nah”, und Theresia Bothes klare Stimme schwebt mit einer beinahe schon körperlichen Präsenz zwischen den Lautsprechern. Die Klarheit und Intensität der instrumentalen und vokalen Artikulation des hervorragend eingespielten Duos konnten die Besucher des diesjährigen Lautenfestivals in Füssen in einem mitreißenden Konzert mit spanischer und italienischer Musik erleben. Hier widmen sich beide Dowlands vierstimmigen Liedkompositionen durchweg als Sololiedern. Bei den meisten dieser Stücke funktioniert das (bekanntermaßen) sehr gut, nur in ,,Say love if ever thou didst find“ wird man das spaßhafte theatrale Spiel mit Textpassagen, die die einzelnen Stimmen sich zuwerfen, vermissen. Manche der Lieder funktionieren überhaupt nur als Sololied gut, ,,Come heavy Sleep“ aus dem First Booke of Songs ist ein solcher Fall und dazu eine Herausforderung, sich zum Verhältnis von Druckfassung und Intention des Komponisten Gedanken zu machen. Die etwas irritierende Zeile ,,Come and possesse my tired thoughts, worne soule” hat früh in der modernen Rezeption und Aufführung zu einer Konjektur geführt, der auch hier gefolgt wird: ,,Come and possesse my tired thought-worn soule”.
Die drei Schluss-Stücke der CD sind wieder Kompositionen von Peter Croton, bei denen sich der Sänger Derek Lee Ragin, mit dem Croton auch früher schon zusammengearbeitet hat, zu Croton und Bothe dazugesellt: The Waking, die Vertonung eines Gedichts des amerikanischen Dichters und Pulitzer-Preisträgers Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), Quietness, eine Vertonung von Worten des mittelalterlichen persischen Dichters Rumi, und das letzte Stück, Crotons kompositorische Hommage an Dowland: ,,Now, O now I needs must Part“. Crotons eher moderne, aber nicht avantgardistische Tonsprache wechselt hier in das Fach des komponierten Folksongs – ein leichter Anklang an das Ballad Book von Joan Baez stellt sich durchaus angenehm ein. Die ganze CD ist ein ausgezeichnetes Beispiel für ein perfektes Zusammenspiel von Sänger/n und Begleiter, für die zeitlose Schönheit des Liedschaffens von John Dowland und nicht zuletzt für Peter Crotons kompositorisches Geschick, zu dem seine Erfahrungen in Jazz und Folk hörbar etwas beitragen.“
Joachim Lüdtke

MusicWeb International Friday July 30 2010

This is an unusual offering, and it’s very far from a conventional single disc survey of Dowland’s music, either for lute or voice. Instead it offers recreationist possibilities and a more curious interplay between his music and that of the performer-composer Peter Croton who has been inspired by it. He has arranged a number of Dowland’s songs for lute, Croton’s own instrument, and there are several of his own compositions as well.

Croton is a fine lutenist, with an acute ear for colour, and he possesses a strong technique. He’s not as zesty or tangy a performer as is, say, Nigel North, whose own performance of the Preludium, with which Croton starts the programme (authentic, unmediated Dowland) is more vital. For the ‘arrangements’ Croton is careful to vary the possibilities for contrast – stating the theme on the lute, for instance, before the voice enters, or introducing solo lute B sections. This last device is something he employs extensively in Now, O now I needs must part which is the longest setting. Whereas a long introductory lute solo prefaces the song proper in Time stands still.

What gives this project even greater resonance is the chosen singer, Theresia Bothe. Her voice continues the theme of cross-current enshrined in the disc; it embodies elements of classical purity in places but also has a decided folk influence more commonly to be found among the Waterson and Wainwright clans. This is deliberate of course, the better to inflect these arrangements with a sense of intimacy, though whether it actually succeeds in transmuting – or limiting – the original source material from the Books of Songs is very much a matter of taste. I find it often very effective but sometimes a failure. Time stands still is a case in point, where the emotive quality is curiously stunted.

Croton’s own compositions occupy an equally modern ground, one akin to music theatre, which is how Bothe delivers Remembrance of things past. For the three remaining songs Derek Lee Ragin joins Croton. Again the music is Broadway orientated, intriguingly so given the ensemble involved. Do I detect however, in Croton’s writing and playing, hints of the oud in the exotic Rumi setting, giving it an even greater sense of place? Ragin by the way seldom uses his counter-tenor, singing pretty consistently in his lower voice.

So this is a somewhat out of the way disc, pursuing a very individual slant on Dowland, and succeeding more often than not.
Jonathan Woolf


Fono Forum 06/10

Natürlich
Scheuklappen scheinen sowohl Peter Croton als auch Theresia Bothe in Sachen Musik nicht zu kennen. Genauso selbstverständlich wie mit Alter Musik treten sie auch als Folkmusiker oder Jazzer auf. Das erinnert zwangsläufig an Sting, der sich j a ebenfalls mit Dowland versucht hat. Doch anders als dieser meidet Theresia Bothe das allzu Künstliche, das so rasch manieriert wirkt. Mit betörender Natürlichkeit und glaskla¬rer Stimme wird sie Text und Musik sehr viel gerechter und weiß auch emotional stärker zu ergreifen. Peter Croton, der einige eige¬ne Kompositionen beigesteuert hat, beeindruckt durch sein unaufdringlich virtuoses Spiel.
RE
Musik
Klang

Le Joueur de Luth, March 2010, Bulletin of the French Lute Society

A recording of voice and lute beginning with a lute prelude, as if to start off an evening among music lovers, or a concert…what a wonderful idea! In the Preludium by Dowland, Peter’s sound is pleasing, the phrasing free and varied; he makes the most of the lute, as he does throughout the entire recording, in which there are plenty of introductions, arrangements and interludes. The following piece (Remembrance) begins in the same style, with a classic, fantasia-like theme – but soon a number of dissonances appear….we find ourselves in the twenty-first century! Then the voice enters, with a skipping melody but sung quite smoothly, accompanied by some delicate notes from the lute (few chords, but quite skilful imitations); the piece is well-constructed with lovely contrasts. In another work by Peter Croton, also based on a text by Shakespeare, the lute introduces a diatonic theme consisting of descending slurred notes, while the voice, exploring its entire range, approaches Sprechgesang to finish with the cry “awake!” A dozen Dowland songs follow, several “hits” (Flow my tears, Now O now I need must part, Come heavy sleep, Come again – however with the words All the day…), but also some sublime “ayres” as well, such as Go crystal tears or  Sorrow stay. The originality of this recording lies in the numerous and convincing arrangements of these songs which Peter has created for solo lute, and uses as preludes, ritornellos between verses or postludes.  He accompanies effectively, the bass nicely present and well articulated, while the voice, though perhaps not quite dark enough in the tragic pieces, is light, clear and natural in the lively ones. The last three pieces, by Peter Croton, are dialogues for two voices and lute. The first piece is particularly interesting because of the fine interaction among the three musicians (harmonious lute arpeggios, voices imitating each other and in parallel movement). The second piece, based on a poem by Rumi (a mystical Sufi poet of the thirteenth century) sounds vividly oriental, full of ornamentation, with music which truly does justice to the text. As for the third piece: surprise! Croton preserves the words and rhythms of Now O now I need must part, but composes it for two voices, with an original melody, accompanied by arpeggios…a mischievous wink to round off this highly original recording which gently introduces lutenists to contemporary music.
Pascale Boquet

Geluit Luthinerie # 49 of March  2010

De wereld première van 5 nieuwe luitliederen gecomponeerd door Peter Croton , luitleraar aan de Schola Cantorum in Basel. Daarbij arrangeerde hij ook luitsolo’s en intro’s gebaseerd op de Dowlandliederen die de rest van deze cd vullen. Moderne luitmuziek zit duidelijk in de lift. De nieuwe luitliederen zijn op teksten van Shakespeare, Theodore Roethke en Rumi.
19 tracks, 62’34” muziek
“American lutenist Peter Croton, now living in Switzerland, decided to add some of his own new songs to the Dowland tradition, and the clear and supple voice of Canadian soprano Bothe does justice to it all. Warmly intimate recorded sound.”
Minnesota Public Radio, New Releases

The Lute Society (England) – Lute News, April 2010

The history of music shows many examples of musicians who have the urge to present familiar music in a different way: Mozart’s reworking of Handel; Busoni’s arrangement for piano, left hand alone, of Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin; Stravinsky’s rewriting of Gesualdo and Pergolesi, and Britten’s realizations of the figured bass in the songs of Purcell. Nearer to our own time and interest we have the Hungarian musician/lutenist Gergely Sarkozy, who in the 1980s made a series of recordings which showed what an imaginative and skilled lutenist could do with the repeats in Bach’s dance movements.
All this brings me to the new CD by Peter Croton & Theresia Bothe. Croton is a creative musician who wishes to recapture the improvisational and inventive nature of the early lutenists. The result, quite different from many of Croton’s contemporaries, is that Dowland’s music is presented as living and malleable, inspiring transformation as well as new compositions.
The CD falls into three sections: the first contains two works by John Dowland and two songs by Croton (published by Tree Edition). The second section and longest section contains eleven songs by Dowland; the last section has three more songs by Croton. For his own songs Croton uses a mixture of Elizabethan texts and those from other periods. Much thought has gone into the choosing of the texts and songs, as often the words of one song link to the words of the next.
The CD opens with the Preludium by John Dowland followed by two settings of Shakespeare by Croton. The lute writing is sparse but idiomatic, with very strong melodic lines which linger in the head; they are often reminiscent of Stephen Sondheim. My favourite is the setting of ‘While you hear do snoring lie”, which has a memorable lute part.
Theresia Bothe’s voice is very individual. Her expressiveness comes from the emphasis and colouring of certain words and the breaking of phrases, rather than ornamenting or varying the music according to historical practise. This approach probably reflects her interest and experiences with the more popular forms of music. She sings in tune and her diction is generally good.
Croton approaches Dowland’s songs in different ways. First, he offers them in the usual manner, i.e. as a song with the lute part as written, but often he presents settings of the songs in versions for solo lute before the song begins (‘Say Love if ever thou did’st find’). Also, in the middle of a song he will often give the repeat sections to the lute (‘Sleep wayward thoughts’). Listen also for the nice variations that he makes in some songs when accompanying the voice (‘Now, O now’). Hearing all this new material created by Croton is like discovering new works by Dowland, such is his sense of style and his ability to emulate Dowland’s melodic gift. Croton’s tone on the lute is good, his phrasing elegant and there is much variety of articulation.
The last section of the CD contains three more songs composed by Croton; the songs this time are for two voices. Bothe is joined by Derek Lee Ragin. These songs are more adventurous, but still very idiomatic for both voice and lute. I particularly like the setting of the poet Rumi, where the lute has very oud-like flavour. The CD ends with a new duo setting of ‘Now, O now’. You might consider Croton to be a brave man in attempting to set such well-known words, but for me, within a few moments of listening I had forgotten the original and was captivated by this version.
If you are looking for a fresh approach to traditional material, for new ways in programming, then try this CD, it is full of surprises!