Care-charming sleep

John Potter, The Dowland Project

CD18,90 out of print

Extending the work begun on the celebrated ‘In Darkness Let Me Dwell’, ex-Hilliard Ensemble singer John Potter and the group now known as The Dowland Project continue to restore the craft of improvisation to the music of the early Baroque. Five highly individual musicians turn now to Purcell, Monteverdi, Cipriano da Rore, Robert Johnson and others, interpreting their madrigals and songs with great imagination and freedom, on an album of intensely lyrical, richly melodic music.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2001, Propstei St. Gerold

Original Release Date

13.10.2003

  • 1Refrain 1
    (Stephen Stubbs)
    01:43
  • 2Anchor che col partire (violin version)
    (Cipriano de Rore)
    03:57
  • 3Già più volte tremante
    (Traditional, Benedetto Ferrari)
    03:02
  • 4Care-charming sleep (1st version)
    (Traditional, Robert Johnson)
    06:51
  • 5Accenti queruli
    (Traditional, Giovanni Felice Sances)
    06:13
  • 6Weep, weep mine eyes
    (Traditional, John Wilbye)
    04:23
  • 7As I walked forth
    (Traditional, Robert Johnson)
    05:43
  • 8Refrain 2
    (Stephen Stubbs)
    01:43
  • 9Refrain 3
    (Stephen Stubbs)
    01:50
  • 10She loves and she confesses
    (Traditional, Henry Purcell)
    03:32
  • 11Angela siete
    (Traditional, Cherubino Busatti)
    08:57
  • 12Have you seen but a bright lily grow?
    (Traditional, Robert Johnson)
    03:03
  • 13Refrain 4 - Amor dov'è la fe'
    (Traditional, Claudio Monteverdi)
    07:53
  • 14Care-charming sleep (2nd version)
    (Traditional, Robert Johnson)
    02:46
  • 15Anchor che col partire (vocal version)
    (Traditional, Cipriano de Rore, Riccardo Rognoni)
    04:35
Diapason d’or
 
The musicians in the “Dowland”project clearly have a debt to jazz and to early music, but don’t let themselves be straightjacketed by either. The surprising addition is that of John Surman on clarinet and saxophone. At times he joins his colleagues, providing an extra line in the ensemble, but at other times comes out of the texture to sound uncannily like a second singing voice partnering John Potter. The effect is magical. … Potter and his colleagues are approaching madrigals with the freedom of seventeenth-century composers, but with the instruments available in our time. The result feels both modern and extraordinarily faithful to the sources.
Mark Argent, Early Music News
 
The tenor John Potter, aided by a team of baroque-cum-jazz specialists (Stephen Stubbs, John Surman, Maya Homburger and Barry Guy), weaves mesmeric improvisations around songs by Dowland, Purcell, Monteverdi, Busatti and Wilbye. Not bland crossover, but a genuinely enriching cross-fertilisation.
Stephen Pettitt, Sunday Times
 
Under the intriguing name The Dowland Project, John Potter has gathered together a heterogeneous group – double bass, baroque violin, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, large lute and a baroque guitar. Their mission: to breathe new life into mid-seventeenth century songs and madrigals with the aim of reinventing the sense of improvisational freedom and excitement which attended the performance of these pieces 400 years ago. … What they’ve got is a handful of English and Italian pieces surviving in sources which suggest all manner of ad hoc performance possibilities. … The running theme of the programme is the ground bass – repeated bass patterns which underpin “composed” pieces by Monteverdi and his imitators (including Purcell), as well as providing the basis for fresh invention. The Dowland Project has so many ideas that we get two versions of some pieces, while others, like Robert Johnson’s “Care-Charming sleep”, run to three or four times their original length. The performers generally stick quite closely to their models, re-painting them with twenty-first-century timbres, and improvising around them rather than all over them. I welcome every one of the fresh colours and textures here – it’s all done so intelligently, so sympathetically and so revealingly.
Simon Heighes, International Record Review
 
The success of the Project’s approach owes much to the mix of early music specialism and wider improvisatory experience. Surman extended the accepted register, range and technical potential of the bass clarinet without ever losing his grip on a fundamental musicality, and is well-versed in the English pastoral tradition whilst Guy, a thought-provoking composer and staggeringly accomplished improviser, has wide experience of playing early music. … Thanks to the fluidity of phrasing and subtle rhythmic awareness of the musicians these performances have a vitality that the composers would, surely, have welcomed… On more reflective numbers the musicians’ lines interweave with a grace and balance which is breathtaking. Potter has one of the warmest, most expressive yet unmelodramatic tenor voices around. Homburger’s violin is limpid, sensuous and opulent, as languid yet powerful as a dozing tiger.
Barry Witherden, Gramophone
 
Das “Dowland Project”, das sich vor ein paar Jahren mit dem Tenor John Potter, dem Saxophonisten John Surman, dem Lautenisten Stephen Stubbs, der Geigerin Maya Homburger und dem Kontrabassisten Barry Guy bildete, hat jetzt neuerlich die Privatheit von Musik öffentlich gemacht. Scheue Madrigale aus alter Zeit (Rore, Ferrari, Sances, Busatti, Wilbye, Purcell, Monteverdi), mit dem Zauberfinger der Improvisation ertastet: Weil oft nur Basslinie und Melodiestimme notiert sind, bleibt ein animierender Freiraum für die Phantasie. Genutzt wird er herrlich.
Wolfram Goertz, Rheinische Post
 
Nach dem stilistischen Umbruch, der sich um die Wende vom sechzehnten zum siebzehnten Jahrhundert vollzogen hatte, übernahm auch John Dowland teilweise die italienische Gewohnheit, nur noch Melodie und Basslinie einer Komposition zu notieren, was den Gestaltungsbedürfnissen zeitgenössischer oder nachfolgender Musiker entgegenkam: Man darf vermuten, dass noch zu seinen Lebzeiten allerlei freie Bearbeitungen seiner berühmtesten Stücke entstanden. Die Usancen jener spielfreudigen Epoche eröffnen in unseren Tagen einer Gruppe wie dem „Dowland Project“ bezwingende Möglichkeiten, die Treue zum Original mit einer vom Jazz inspirierten Kreativität zu verbinden. Was für den britischen Meister der Melancholie gilt, lässt sich ebenso auf seine einheimischen und kontinentalen Zeitgenossen anwenden. Das neue Album von John Potter & Co. mit Liedern und Madrigalen englischer und italienischer Komponisten heißt Care-charming sleep, nach einem unsterblichen Song, den der Lautenvirtuose und Bühnenmusiker Robert Johnson ... schuf. Natürlich soll hier in Wahrheit nicht der Schlaf die Sorgen und den Kummer weghexen, sondern die Musik, die alle Register der Bezauberung zieht, bis an die Grenze der süßen Betäubung.
Es zeigt sich, dass John Potter und Stephen Stubbs diesen Effekt auch in der Ur-Besetzung herstellen können: die traumsichere Intonation, sensible Phrasierung und zarte Klangfarbenmalerei des Sängers, dazu die Laute, die den „pearling stream“ und „silver rain“ des Textes imitiert – mehr braucht es eigentlich nicht. Dennoch ist die Fassung, in der Barockvioline und Sopransaxophon sich improvisierend einmischen, von einem unwiderstehlichen, in sich völlig stimmigen Reiz, wie alle Stücke dieser Kollektion, die mit einer eigenwilligen und doch dezenten, auf subtilste Wirkungen bedachten Experimentierlust zusammengestellt ist.
Kristina Maidt-Zinke, Süddeutsche Zeitung
 
Es ist eine Musik, gegen die es keine Einwände geben kann. So einfach ist das und so zwingend. Wo das Original prinzipiell nicht zu rekonstruieren ist, muss die Bearbeitung eigene Logik entwickeln. Das beginnt bei der Ausformulierung seinerzeit nicht aufgezeichneter Stimmen – sie sollten von den Ausführenden improvisiert werden – und hört bei Fragen der Interpretation, von Tempo und Gestus noch lange nicht auf. Denn das ist über allen Unternehmungen mit Klängen aus der Vergangenheit John Potters eigentliches Movens geblieben: Er wolle Dowlands Musik für uns zurückgewinnen, formulierte er vor vier Jahren anlässlich der Veröffentlichung von In Darkness Let Me Dwell. Diesmal ist der Radius weitergezogen. Doch im Grunde spielt das keine Rolle. Es geht hier eben gerade nicht – oder jedenfalls nicht ausschließlich – um den Song, sondern um den Musiker an sich. Und um die Lebendigkeit und Gültigkeit von Musik jenseits der Zeiten. Es ist ein berückendes Plädoyer.
Andreas Obst, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
Non seulement impeccable dans l’exécution, mais plus encore séduisant par son esprit d’ouverture et de création, ce disque permet à la musique ancienne de sortir du musée où elle s’enferme volontiers.
Jeanice Brooks, Diapason
 
 
 
“Potter is never less than impressive in these wonderfully unforced performances, and all five performers show great sensitivity both to the original settings and to each other’s contri-butions. The remarkable results show just what can be achieved when performance of the highest order and creative freedom meet.”
BBC Music Magazine, reviewing “In Darkness Let Me Dwell”

The Dowland Project was brought together five years ago by ex-Hilliard Ensemble singer John Potter and producer Manfred Eicher to record music of John Dowland. In the interim, the group has toured widely, building its repertoire as its mission has become clearer. John Potter and friends are approaching early music in a contemporary spirit that celebrates the music’s original intentions and contexts, and along the way they are restoring the improvisational impulse to the ‘classical’ tradition.

John Potter: “Dowland lived on the cusp of a revolutionary change in compositional style. In some of his later songs he acknowledged the new Italian freer style, where composers were expected to provide only the bass line and the tune. This gave many more creative opportunities to the performers, who could improvise their own harmony and who didn’t have to be lute players (anyone could read a bass line). Possibly even before Dowland’s death, musicians were taking his famous earlier songs and reworking them in the new style.”

A similar process transpired with the madrigal, one of the programmatic subjects addressed on “Care-Charming Sleep”. “We tend to think of Renaissance madrigals as songs for several unaccompanied voices, because that was the format in which they were usually published. More recently, scholars have realised that the printed madrigal books were more often used as source material for a much less prescriptive kind of music-making: anyone who could sing or play could use the partbooks to put together their own unique version of any piece. Parallel with this was the 16th /17thcentury tradition of solo performers improvising on earlier polyphonic madrigals.” This is the case with the Rognoni 1620 version of the four-voice ‘Ancor che col partire’ by Cipriano da Rore, which “takes the original tune and weaves a new, highly elaborate version round it, in much the same way as a jazz musician would treat a standard. This ‘division’ repertoire has many elements common to jazz, especially the creative use by the performer of someone else’s music, taking the basic elements of a popular tune and reworking them into something more personalised. Wilbye’s ‘Weep weep mine eyes’ was originally published in 1609 in his Second Set of Madrigals. It appears in a manuscript of a generation or so later, sketched as a tune and bass line, perhaps copied from the original but reduced to a performing version in the current style.” The Dowland Project drew from both sources for their rendition. Potter based his vocal line on the later solo version, while the players used Wilbye’s original as a basis for their improvised accompaniment. “This is the kind of performance that might have occurred in the middle of the 17th century, and which still happens today in jazz and popular music: a group of like-minded musicians getting together to do what they can with what they’ve got.”

The like-minded musicians of the Dowland Project have between them a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.

For 17 years a singer with the Hilliard Ensemble and one of its prime conceptual thinkers (his interest in jazz giving impetus to the Officium and Mnemosyne collaborations with Jan Garbarek), John Potter has always been fascinated by vocal activity of all kinds. He was a founder member of the avant-garde ensemble Electric Phoenix and the still-extant Red Byrd – whose repertoire has embraced all options from Monteverdi to the music of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Potter has written extensively on singing and his book Vocal Authority (Cambridge University Press) was widely acclaimed.