Reviews

GMCD 7388 – Light & Shadows

Peter Croton – lute & archlute

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Akustik Gitarre – Februar 2014

Ein aus den USA stammender, in der Schweiz lebender Lautenist spielt eine zehnchörige frühe Barock- und eine schon optisch beeindruckende Erzlaute mit 14 Chören: Peter Croton – Light & Shadows / Lute music of the Italian Baroque (Guild). Drei Stücke von Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger machen den Auftakt; 1611 als Tabulaturen für „lauto” veröffentlicht (was später „liuto” und auch mal „leuto” heißt), stehen sie als die ältesten der CD für das Frühbarock und sind auf der kleinen Laute gespielt. Das weitere Programm von 1623-1639 und dann noch 1718 braucht die Erzlaute. Für die zeitliche Lücke des „Kernbarock” gibt das Heft keine Erklärung; die drei Sonaten (= stilisierten Partiten) von Giovanni Zamboni stammen aus der letzten italienischen Lautenveröffentlichung. Der deutschstämmige Italiener Kapsberger war unter anderem auch Organist, was sich in den beiden Lauten-Toccatas und einer Corrente deutlich zeigt. Alessandro Piccini (1566 – ca. 1638) ist mit sieben Stücken vertreten, die „Licht und Schatten” als Emotionen hervorrufen, wobei die ungeahnten Bässe des Instruments das ihre tun. Diesen Eindruck verstärken vier Werke von Pietro Paolo Meli (1579 – nach 1623), und hier entfaltet sich die Virtuosität des Interpreten, um bei Zamboni zur Höchstform aufzulaufen (Hörbeispiele: die drei Gigues). Dies sind zweifellos die reifsten Stücke des Programms mit allen melodischen und harmonischen Tricks der Zeit, hier wird der Tonumfang der Erzlaute (reiz-) voll ausgenutzt, und bevor das Spätbarock kam, hatte die Laute ausgedient – damals.
Wieland Ulrichs

American Record Guide – January/February 2014

The American-born lutenist Peter Croton demonstrates his virtuosic talent on this program of Italian lute music. The program opens with Toccatas 1 and 5, and Corrente 12, by the expatriate German Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (c. 1580-1651), who was probably the greatest lute virtuoso of the Italian Baroque. Yet, comparing these with the other solo works on the program by Alessandro Piccini (1566-c.1638), Pietro Paolo Melli (1579-after 1623), and Giovanni Zamboni (fl. early 18th Century), one could hardly say they bear witness to lesser genius. Piccini’s toccatas sound every bit as evocative as Kapsperger’s; they, too, sound rhapsodic and improvisatory. Judging exclusively on the basis of these compositions, one might say only that Kapsperger’s toccatas range more expansively, and may be more densely contrapuntal. Their Correntes are also spirited in their ornamentation.
The two Capriccios by Paolo Melli are similar to the toccatas heard earlier, insofar as they are improvisatory; but Melli’s figuration is more predictable. For example, alternating thirds or a particular scalar pattern might permeate an entire passage, whereas Kapsperger’s figures are more erratic, keeping one guessing where the path might lead.
The program contains three delightful chamber sonatas by Giovanni Zamboni. Sonatas 1 and 9 begin with a prelude, followed by a suite of theatrical dances: Alemandas, Gigas, Currentes, Sarabandas, and Gavottas. Sonata 6 differs only in that it begins with an Alemanda. Its suspensions and pedal points give it a suitably grave affect. Croton performs on both a 10-course lute and a 14-course archlute; his notes are in English and German.
LOEWEN

French Lute Society – June 2013

Girolamo Kapsberger: Toccatas and Corrente (1611)
In this music, Peter plays in a free and inspired manner that well reflects the whimsical and wild temperament of the composer! But he also has a very articulate phrasing, high-level virtuosity, very clear trebles, sweet and beautiful sounding basses…
Alessandro Piccinini: Toccatas and Courantes (1623 and 1639)
Here, the playing seems more flexible, as if Piccinini incited more tenderness than the caustic Kapsberger… The music, with diminutions and 10ths, seems less disjointed, less crazy (Piccinini is anyway born fourteen years before Kapsberger). In addition, the Courantes by Alessandro (for example XI) sometimes still resemble voltas while those of Girolamo already adopt a later, arpeggiated style …
Pietro Paolo Melii: Capricio, Corrente (1614, 1616 and 1620)
This composer, although a contemporary of Kapsberger, somehow makes the link between the two previous composers: Corrente structured like galliards, but Capricii nevertheless rich in harmonic surprises, unexpected intervals and chromaticism.
Giovanni Zamboni: Sonatas I, VI and IX (1718)
Here, the change in style is radical… Zamboni, whose works were composed a century after the first ones on the disc, could be considered “the Italian Weiss”. Gallant style, classic suite structure, compositional emphasis on the treble and bass, grace notes, pleasure through elegance, beautiful effects; but theatrically “salon music” when compared to the previous century… However, this music is very enjoyable to play as well as to listen to, and allows players of the archlute to enter into the eighteenth century! (and they are the last works for the Italian lute)…
On this CD, Peter, like a chameleon, knows perfectly well how to adapt to different stylistic eras and different composers. Impulsive in Kapsberger, more distanced in Piccinini, flexible in Melii, and spoken and rhetorical in Zamboni… It doesn’t surprise us, knowing the multiple talents of this lutenist, able to go from Dowland to contemporary music, Renaissance lute to electric guitar… If this disc, as its name indicates, is “chiaroscuro”, its performer himself plays like the Harlequin in the commedia dell’arte and delights us with a thousand instrumental colors…
Pascale Boquet
Original French Review
Girolamo Kapsberger: Toccatas et Corrente (1611)
Dans cette musique, Peter possède un jeu libre et inspiré qui reflète bien le tempérament fantasque et sauvage du compositeur! Mais il a aussi un phrasé très articulé, une bonne virtuosité, des aigus assez incisifs, des basses moelleuses et bien timbrées…
Alessandro Piccinini: Toccatas et Courantes (1623 et 1639)
Ici, le jeu semble plus souple, comme si Piccinini incitait à plus de tendresse que l’âpre Kapsberger… La musique, en diminutions et dixièmes, semble moins décousue, moins folle (Piccinini est d’ailleurs né quatorze ans avant Kapsberger). Par ailleurs, les Courantes d’Alessandro (comme la XI) ressemblent parfois encore à des voltes, alors que celles de Girolamo adoptent déjà un style brisé tardif…
Pietro Paolo Melii: Capricio, Corrente (1614, 1616 et 1620)
Ce compositeur, bien que contemporain de Kapsberger, fait en quelque sorte le lien entre les deux précédents : Corrente en forme de gaillardes, mais Capricii néanmoins riches en surprises harmoniques, intervalles inattendus et chromatismes.
Giovanni Zamboni: Sonatas I, VI et IX (1718)
Ici, le changement de style est radical … Zamboni, dont les œuvres furent composées un siècle après les premières de ce disque, est en quelque sorte le « Weiss italien ». Style galant, structure de suite classique, écriture dessus et basse, appogiatures, plaisir de l’élégance, beaux effets mais théâtralité « de salon » si on la compare au siècle précédent… Néanmoins, cette musique est très agréable à jouer comme à écouter, et permet aux archiluthistes d’aborder le XVIIIe siècle ! (et les dernières œuvres de luth italiennes)…
Dans ce disque, Peter, tel un caméléon, sait parfaitement s’adapter aux environnements stylistiques des différentes époques et des différents compositeurs. Impulsif dans Kapsberger, plus distancié dans Piccinini, souple dans Melii, volubile et beau parleur dans Zamboni …
Cela ne nous étonne guère, sachant la polyvalence de ce luthiste capable de passer de Dowland à la musique contemporaine, du luth Renaissance à la guitare électrique … Si ce disque, comme son nom l’indique, est en «clair-obscur», son interprète, lui, joue l’Arlequin de commedia dell’arte et nous ravit de mille couleurs instrumentales…

Basler Zeitung – 22.4.2013 / Klassik

Hörbares Licht im Dunkeln.
Der etwas bemüht wirkende Titel «Licht und Schatten» der CD spielt auf die in der italienischen Malerei um 1600 so beliebte Hell-Dunkel-Malerei an. Man hat dieses «Chiaroscuro» mit den komplexen Toccaten von Johannes Hieronymus von Kapsberger in Verbindung gebracht, die am Beginn dieses hörenswerten Überblicks über Lautenmusik des italienischen Barocks stehen. Der Lautenist Peter Croton, der seit vielen Jahren in Basel lebt und lehrt, spielt dazu weitere Toccaten und Correnten von Alessandro Piccinini sowie wirklich kapriziöse Capricci von P P. Melii ein, die ebenfalls aus dem Beginn des 17. Jahrhunderts stammen. Am Schluss der Sammlung und stilistisch abweichend stehen Sonaten von Giovanni Zamboni aus dem Jahr 1718.
Die CD brilliert durch eine bestechende Aufnahmetechnik, welche die verwendeten Instrumente (Barocklaute und Arciliuto, ein Instrument mit zusätzlichen Basssaiten) ausgezeichnet zur Geltung bringt. Diese herausragende Qualität steht etwas im Gegensatz zu dem sehr schlicht und knapp gehaltenen Booklet.
kir

Geluit-Luthinerie, No.61 – 03/2013

The music by Kapsperger sounds very transparent thanks to the clear and precise playing of Peter Croton, performed on a 10 course lute made by Michael Lowe.
The music of the somewhat older Piccinini is quite different, has its own character and is also well-considered. The toccatas are performed with rubato and subtle feeling, through which Peter Croton understands how to build musical tension. The warm bass sounds are from a 14- course archlute built by Andreas Holst.
Naturally, neither Melii not Zamboni are lacking from this selection of Italian lute music of the baroque.
Greet Schamp

International Record Review – June 2013

Peter Croton’s programme of Italian lute music is divided almost equally between the early and late Baroque periods. The disc’s title of ‘Light & Shadows’ is particularly apt for the music of the early Baroque period, when Italian lutenists were exploring the expressive and technical possibilities of an emerging style that relied heavily on rhetorical devices, such as dramatic tempo changes, dynamic contrasts and harmonic variation. Three composers for the lute who were important early exponents of this style are represented in the programme: Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c.1638), Pietro Paolo Melii (1579-after 1623) and the Italian-born German Johann Hieronymus (or Giovanni Girolamo) Kapsberger (c.1580-1651).
The most avant-garde of these was Kapsberger, represented by three pieces from his First Book of Lute Music of 1611, whose works are less melodic and more `fantastical’, even rhapsodic, than the other two. They are also the only ones in the programme expressly written for a ten-course lute (one of the respected English luthier Michael Lowe’s earlier copies, made in 1976) and played as such by Croton.
The rest of the disc features the archlute, which Piccinini claimed rather improbably to have invented. Like the theorbo (or chitarrone or liuto attiorbato), it has 14 courses; but unhke that even larger instrument, all its firnt six courses (save for the highest consisting of paired strings) are at correct lute pitch, not lowered an octave, and are in the ‘old’ G major tuning like a renaissance lute. The remaining single-strung courses (diapasons) run to an extended neck, so that while the archlute can plag at the usual highrenaissance pitch, it can also reach well into the bass range.
Both Kapsberger and the somewhat less innovative Piccinini worked alongside Frescobaldi in Rome, which may help explain their relative popularity on disc. The least familiar of the three early composers is Melii, whose music has rarely appeared on disc. He came from Reggio and must have spent the major part of his professional life in Service to the Duke of Modena, whose territories then included Reggio; but he also had a very well-remunerated period with the Habsburgs in Vienna from before 1612 until about 1619. Having issued at least five books of archlute music, he disappeared from the historical record in 1623, when the Duke of Modena wrote a Letter confirming he was releasing Melii from service to allow him to take up his late uncle’s post of Captain of the Gate of Santa Croce in Reggio.
The late-Baroque half of the programme is devoted to Giovanni Zamboni, an obscure contemporary of Corelli whose only published music was a set of sonatas for archlute issued in Lucca in 1718. This collection aride, practically the only information we have about Zamboni is that he was from Rome, worked between 1701 and 1713 in the cathedral orchestra in Pisa as a contrabassista (a term then often used to refer to lutenists as well as double bass or violone players), mastered a variety of different instruments, wrote two books of madrigals and moreover also moonlighted as a professional polisher of ‘oriental gems’. The 1718 lute sonatas da camera are in the mature Italian high-Baroque style that profoundly influenced the great German lutenists of the high-Baroque period, notably Sylvius Leopold Weiss. They usually open with an introductory movement (preludio), followed by a sequence of alemanda, currente or giga, sarabanda and minuetto or gavotta. Croton has chosen the three most attractive of the 12 sonatas — polished gems indeed – which are suffused with wonderful melodic ideas and (true to the ‘light and shadows’ theme) dramatically expressive harmonic shifts and dissonances.
Croton is certainly both an agile and accomplished performer and he dispatches all four composers’ works with ease. However, in the early Baroque pieces his renditions, while proficient, tend just slightly towards the prosaic and lack some drama and Sense of exploration. In the Zamboni sonatas, too, he falls short a little in terms of atmosphere and expression. This is especially evident in the sixth Sonata, perhaps the most gorgeous of the three he plays, in which his delivery of its often melancholy lines suffers from a want of poetry. Moreover, while Croton does ornament throughout the sonatas, a little more variety of embellishment would have been welcome, especially on the repeats (though a few repeats seem to be omitted).
In terms of presentation, there is nothing to fault the recording. Informative notes on the instruments and music respectively are provided by Croton and the American lutenist, musicologist and founder of the Baltimore Consort, Roger Harmon. Sources and track details are also clearly set out. Most admirably, as Croton himself points out, the recording was not made in the usual echo-filled church but in a relatively small wood-panelled studio approximating the acoustic in which the music would most likely have been heard originally.
Christopher Price