John Potter, Anna Maria Friman, Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Herringman
ECM New Series. 481 1555
What is a song? The music on this CD responds to that question by crossing the bridge between art song and pop song. It combines pieces from the English 16th century lute song repertoire with compositions influenced by those works by three present day musicians, more usually associated with rock music. We hear the Genesis keyboard-player, Tony Banks, reflect on Campion’s The cypress curtain of the night and Follow thy fair sun – as well as the Campion originals. Sting’s Bury me deep in the greenwood (written for the film, Robin Hood) is firmly in the lute-song tradition.
The CD opens with former Led Zeppelin bass-player, John Paul Jones’s 15 minute, three movement Amores Pasados, written in 1989 for Red Byrd. His No dormia, is a magically evocative, and almost medieval interpretation of a poem by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer – ‘magical spaces’ indeed. The voices of John Potter and Anna Maria Friman entwine beautifully, with the lutes of Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Herringman weaving a gentle filigree soundscape around them. Songs by Warlock and Moeran reflect the early to mid 20th century interest in the Elizabethan period. The curiously structured In nomine by Picforth, an almost totally unknown 16th century English composer, is played by the two lutes – in the manuscript, each of the five lines of music is written in a different time signature, giving something of a late 20th century minimalist feel to it.
John Potter and Anna Maria Friman are both listed as ‘voice’ rather than their specific classical vocal timbre (tenor and soprano). The programme notes suggest that this is deliberate, helping to break the barrier between the classical singer’s genetic identity and the rock singers’ greater vocal freedom. I guess it is similarly deliberate that none of the texts are given in the notes – or, indeed any information about the performers. But the diction of the two singers is excellent, and the Spanish texts of Amores Pasados can be found on the internet. As well as singing, Anna Maria Friman also plays the Hardanger fiddle, the sound blending imperceptibly into that of the two lutes.
The mood of the CD is delightfully relaxed, and has something of an improvisatory feel– apparently several of the songs reached their final form in the studio. John Potter suggests that some recording glitches have been deliberately retained, but I didn’t notice any.
[The 481 1555 number is for UK orders. There is also an ECM 2441 reference which, I think, applies to non-UK orders]