Peter Croton
lutenist - guitarist
songwriter

lutenist - guitarist - songwriter
biography & reviews

Peter Croton grew up in the USA and presently lives in Switzerland. He is an active performer in Europe and the USA as soloist and chamber musician, in styles ranging from Renaissance to folk music. His original music ranges from modern lute songs to songs in a folk/pop/jazz style. He teaches lute, guitar continuo & historical performance practice at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and at the Conservatories of Music in Basel and Bern, Switzerland.

 

As a child of six he began performing as a folk guitarist and singer. Peter’s musical roots in folk and jazz music were supplemented by formal studies of lute and classical guitar with Dr. Loris Chobanian at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (USA), and with Eugen Dombois and Hopkinson Smith at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. His expressive guitar and lute playing, as well as his original compositions reflect these multifaceted influences.

 

In 1984 he won first prize at the "Erwin Bodky" competition for Early Music in Boston, and has also won prizes at the international lute competition "Guitar '84" in Toronto and at the international competition "Concert Artists' Guild" in New York City. Since 1984 he has been involved in numerous CD, television and radio productions as soloist and chamber musician (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Virgin, Channel Classics, Guild, Musicaphon, Balance and Proprius).

 

He has performed and recorded with Theresia Bothe (bothecrotonduo.com), Derek Lee Ragin, Susanne Rydén, René Jacobs, Andreas Scholl, Guillemette Laurens, and Nigel Rogers, among others. He has appeared at international festivals including: Rheingau Musik Festival, Kissinger Sommer, Festspiele Europäische Wochen Passau, Tage Alter Musik Regensburg, Staufener Musikwoche, Innsbrucker Festwochen der alten Musik, Niedersächsische Musiktage, Mosel Festwochen, Kultursommer Nordhessen, Les Arts Jaillissants – Savoie, Festival des Cordes Sensibles, Early Music Vancouver and Early Music Guild Seattle.

 

His explorations of historical performance practice - PERFORMING BAROQUE MUSIC ON THE CLASSICAL GUITAR (2015) and PERFORMING BAROQUE MUSIC ON THE LUTE & THEORBO (2016) - are available worldwide on Amazon. In 2001 six of his compositions were published by the German Lute Society, and his tutor, "Figured Bass on the Classical Guitar" has been published by Amadeus in Switzerland. He has also recorded and performed new works written for the lute by Gwyneth Walker and Loris Chobanian. His newest CD, Bach on the Italian Lute, has recently been released by Guild, and four new settings of texts by William Shakespeare have been just published by Tree Edition.

 

 

Excerpts from reviews of concerts


The first Swiss Lute Festival
Rapperswil, September 13-15th 2013
"The recitals varied in quality but were, for the most part, a pleasure to hear; in particular Peter Croton’s concert was world-class...
Peter Croton’s concert was, without a doubt, the high-point of the festival. Playing his partially original liuto attiorbato by Sellas, the artist transported us to early 17th century Italy with music by Melij, Piccinini and Kapsberger, works he rendered with a wide variety of timbre and a subtle sense of their inherent architecture. Due to the prevalence of free forms such as toccata or capriccio, today’s listener may find this music wild and unorganized. It demands technical mastery from the player and, in order to make the arcane accessible, a high level of musicality. No problem for an artist of Peter Croton’s stature! The difficulties are entirely different in the music he chose next. Giovanni Zamboni lived and worked some 100 years later, in a period called, in Germany, galant. The music is lyrical and simple. For it to offer pleasure to the listener, the artist has to get all the timbral variety and virtuosity out of the instrument he can. Peter did it and his instrument delivered, supported splendidly by the impressive acoustics of the monastery church. The program concluded with an arrangement of the ‘Cello Suite BWV 1007, which in my opinion fits well into the lute repertoire. It is standard practice among lutenists to adapt Bach’s Cello Suites to their instrument, Bach himself having arranged the 5th Suite (BWV 1011) for lute (BWV 995). Peter acknowledged the thunderous applause with a short, lively piece from the early Italian Renaissance and thus sent the audience on its way in high spirits."

lautenist.livejournal.com
Thomas Schall

"Her duo partner Peter Croton also put on a dazzling performance as a soloist, playing with breathtaking virtuosity works by Alesandro Piccinini and Giovanni Zamboni, as well as a romantic piece by Giuliani."

   Concerto


"Peter Croton demonstrated effortless technical command and a high degree of refinement."

   The Boston Globe

 

"Lyrical and virtuosic... Croton played with an astonishing range of tone colors and dynamics.  Also astonishing was the variety of expression, from lyrical intimacy to extroverted virtuosity of the highest degree."

   Nürnberger Nachrichten

 

"Croton demonstrated a high level of virtuosity and a well developed sense for exciting, dramatic playing."

   Badische Zeitung

 

"His accompaniments were sensitive, and his solo performances were excitingly extravagant, especially the highly virtuoso Toccatas by Piccinini."

   Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin)"


"With toccatas by Girolamo Kapsperger and Alessandro Picinnini, Croton showed himself to be a lyric poet of the lute. "

   Saale-Zeitung (Festival Bad Kissingen)

 

"Honey-golden lute sound."

   Basellandschaftlicher Zeitung


As well as providing Ragin with sensitive accompaniment, Croton demonstrated consummate musicianship as soloist, composer, and arranger."

   The Georgia Straight (Vancouver, B.C.)

 

"Derek Lee Ragin’s accompanist was the equally renowned Peter Croton, who created a fine, almost orchestral texture.   Croton played with great expression, variation and fluency."

   Main-Echo (Würzburg)

 

 

Excerpts from reviews of CDs
(for reviews of "Light & Shadows" & "The Two Francescos" please click the the navigation buttons)

 

Bach on the Italian Lute (Guild)

"…The outcome was stunning: it turned out that Bach’s music works quite well on the Italian lute... How beautiful Bach’s lute suites can sound on the Italian lute is demonstrated by the present recording by Peter Croton, which from beginning to end is an exquisite listening experience… Thanks to Croton’s subtle and transparent playing, the Suite in g-minor, perhaps the most pensive of Bach’s works for the lute, comes across not at all as cumbersome, but rather as stimulating, leading the listener to reflect, to step back a moment and listen in a concentrated manner. The Preludium from Suite 1 for cello, adapted by Peter Croton for Italian lute, signals the transition to a lighter, more extroverted mood, a mood which, thanks to his elegantly attractive manner of play, Croton emphasizes but never exaggerates. And in the dance movements Croton uses the entire range of dynamic resources offered by the liuto attiorbato in order to do justice to Bach’s varied musical language. Peter Croton concludes the recording with his own adaptation of “Bist du bei mir” from the Anna Magdalena Bach Book for Clavier… a fitting close to this program in which Peter Croton’s exceptionally refined and singing manner of playing is especially highlighted.

   CONCERTO - The Magazine for Early Music, June/July 2009

"Croton's performances are superb. Not only does he play very cleanly, with very few loud finger squeaks or mis-struck notes, but his solid, round tone and measured, unrushed manner allow the instrument's dark, sonorities to saturate Bach's harmonies."

   International record review


“On this album, the excellent Peter Croton sheds new light on these works by presenting them on an Italian Lute, an instrument also used in Germany during Bach’s lifetime. The selected works are performed without modification and in the original keys. This is a recording of intimate timbres and subtle expression, evoking the Lautenwerk, a keyboard instrument for which J.S. Bach apparently composed these works. These are intelligent, sensitive and lyrical performances of some of the most challenging and expressive music ever written for the lute. The beautifully recorded pieces are wonderfully calming and prove beyond doubt that ‘Bach teaches us how to be pious’.”

    www.new-classics.co.uk

 

“(Croton’s) approach emphasizes a spoken, rhetorical manner of playing and use of suitable affect in the dance movements. This results is a very warm, lively interpretation that often allows the music an astonishing amount of breathing space, while lending the dances a feeling of supple and spirited movement. The result is an extraordinarily differentiated recording, which makes undisturbed, concentrated listening a pleasurable experience.”

    German Lute Society Lauten-Info 1/2009

 

"Goal of this innovative CD: to play Bach on the archlute … The overall result is that Bach’s music sounds particularly easy and comfortable in the original keys… the Suite BWV 997  is tranquil, the resonances of the long bass strings permitting moderate tempi and therefore a good understanding of the compositional structures. The Suite BWV 995 in g-minor (especially the Prelude) sounds even better, being rich in noble harmonies and solemn cadences. The très viste sounds clear, and the dances flow naturally, with good spirit, good rhythmical sense, and particularly well-realized and well-integrated ornaments. The Suite BWV 1007 for cello (arranged by Peter) reconciles us with the single strings because they approximate more closely the deep and compact sonority of the original instrument. The interpretation is very lively (Courante, Menuets) and even more fluid and less heroic than on the cello! The disc concludes with “Bist du bei mir” from the Anna Magdalena Bach Book, a beautiful song of popular origin, arranged here with majestic arpeggios which become more and more luminous. Bravo to Peter Croton for this innovative and pleasing CD!”

    The French Lute Society, March 2009


“…Peter Croton's Bach on the Italian lute, which greatly pleases the ears even if it may ruffle the feathers of the purists. Here he gives enjoyable performances of three pieces (BWV995, 997 and 999) of the seven Bach works directed or arranged for lute in the composer's lifetime, plus Croton's own arrangements of the Cello Suite BWV1007 and of the lovely ‘Bist du bei mir’. He records in a wood-panelled room, much more authentic than the churches so often used for what is, after all, secular chamber music… The sound is indeed wonderfully clear, sweet and direct“

   Early Music Magazine, July 2010

“Musically the performances work very well… very liquid phrasing with a minimum of noise. Croton writes that his early background as a folk and jazz guitarist enabled him to understand the rhetorical modes of Baroque music, and indeed his performances have a uniquely expressive, rhythmically flexible quality… It's not a question of direct jazz influence, but of an effort to embody a mood and communicate it to a listener. The sound is another strong point. Grasping the point, seemingly elusive for so many musicians, that pieces of this kind would have been performed in a small "chamber" with likely wooden walls, not in a church, Croton chooses a wood-paneled room in a Basel studio and creates an intimate sound environment that perfectly complements his performances…”     All Music Guide, James Manheim

“Croton is good, clearly enjoying and understanding the music… The Guild recording is good, catching the darker tones of Croton’s instrument very well… The inclusion of a transcription of Bist du bei mir as the short closing item is a real bonus. It’s well played and correctly attributed to Heinrich Stölzel. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with the purchase of this Guild recording; I’ve enjoyed hearing it.”

    musicweb-international


Remembrance of Things Past (Guild)

“…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 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!”

    THE LUTE SOCIETY (ENGLAND) – Lute News, April 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."

   LUTE SOCIETY OF AMERICA QUARTERLY – Volume XLV, No. 2, Summer 2010


"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


"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 skillful 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. " (original in French)

   The French Lute Society, Le Joueur de Luth, March 2010


 

 

 

"Blinders seem to be unfamiliar to Peter Croton and Theresia Bothe with regards to making music. They are as comfortable performing early music as they are folk and jazz. One inevitably thinks of Sting, who also tried his hand at Dowland. Unlike him however, Theresia Bothe avoids the artificiality which so quickly becomes mannered. With her beguiling naturalness and crystal-clear voice she does much more justice to the text and music, and succeeds in moving the emotions more strongly. Peter Croton, who contributes a few of his own compositions, impresses with his subtle virtuosity."

   FONO FORUM 10/06

 
"'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 re-creationist 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… 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… 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… 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? So this is a somewhat out of the way disc, pursuing a very individual slant on Dowland, and succeeding more often than not."

   MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL


"Lutenist Peter Croton presents an extraordinary view of John Dowland and his world."

   TOCCATA, July-August 2010


"...music by John Dowland together with world premiere recordings of five new lute songs written and played by the excellent Peter Croton."

   new-classics.co.uk

Italian Lute Songs (Channel Classics)

"...tantalizingly programmed and brilliantly executed."

   Classic CD

 

The Renaissance Lute - Yesterday and Today (Musicaphon)

"Peter Croton does not limit the expressive range of his instrument. The fantasies by Francesco da Milano sound unusually fresh and lively, and the works by John Dowland are perfect examples of imaginative and tastefully differentiated performances."

   FonoForum

 

Sweeter Than Roses (Balance)

"The one common feature is Croton's excellent lute playing...he makes the most elaborate passages sound effortless"

    Lute News (The Lute Society, London)

 

Music With Her Silver Sound (Acantus)

"Croton displayed his mastery of the lute with some very agile finger work and excellent projection of the themes in the contrapuntal sections, bringing out the interplay of the melodic lines with clarity."

   The Recorder Magazine

 

I'll Sing a Song For You (ZahZah)

"Irish-Canadian vocalist Theresia Bothe grew up in Mexico. Guitarist/vocalist Peter Croton is a U.S. native who was trained at the Oberlin Conservatory, and has won awards all over North America during his travels. Both live in Switzerland, and while all of these facts may account for the folk/pop/jazz mix you hear on this recording, it does not tell the complete story. While heavier on the folk/pop component, there's a sweetness and light to the original material heard throughout. Bothe is distinctively Irish in her vocal style, rolling r's and brandishing the clipped, bold and bright bonnie tones associated with Celtic singing. Croton is similar to Gordon Lightfoot vocally, while on the guitar his approach is fairly basic within the folk tradition, though at times it's clear he's heard his share of the mellower side of Kenny Burrell. The most surprising ideas, though much less traditionally mainstream jazz than one might think, are the tributes to Langston Hughes and Billie Holiday. The duo play an homage to the legendary poet "On The Death Of Langston Hughes," while the sad "Song For Billie Holiday" is in 3/4 time. A New Orleans shuffle in a quartet setting shows the best improvisation and swing during "Life Is Fine" as sung by Croton, Bothe's feature on the lullaby "Song To A Sleeping Child" is the most tender tune of the date, and during the rock oriented song of departure "You're Running Away Again," both sing in harmony. The remainder of the program leans to folk, especially Croton's impressive acoustic guitar finger style triplet forms on "Land Of Dreams" with a more ethereal Bothe, while "Just Another Shoulder To Lean On" markedly molds the swing and pop shells into a unified whole."

  All Music Guide, Michael G. Nastos

 

 

"Bothe sings from her heart with a strong rich voice that will excite folk music lovers as they expand their envelope. Our favorite was "Another day in life with you" with a cool guitar intro by Peter."

  O’s Place Jazz Newsletter, D. Oscar Groomes

 

"This band creates a unique blend of folk pop and jazz. Bothe and Croton's music is formed from the stylings of Billy Holiday and Kenny Burrell. The voice of Theresia Bothe is a bit like Judie Collins and Joan Baez, so that definitely fits with the theme of folk jazz.

 

There also seems to be a dose of poetry-laced lyrics infused in some of these songs. "On the death of Langston Hughes" has a slow melodic sound that is more folk than jazz, but incorporates both styles. "Song for Billie Holiday" has impressive guitar accompaniment with strong lyrics. The chordings chosen by Croton fit this song to a tee. A subtle echo effect lends merit to this track. The guitar tone is good and a slight tremolo sound is present. "I'll Sing a Song for You" has an intro with jazz chords. It moves into a faster ballad sung by Bothe and has cool jazz drumming and upright bass on the track.

 

The CD "I'll Sing a Song for You" has impressive vocals and jazz guitar playing, which will make it appeal to fans of folk-laden jazz."

  Metro Spirit, Rich McCracken II

 

 

"Two talented pros travel the singer/songwriter route, with a little genre splicing for flavor, and deliver a nice set of originals that goes down well and never comes across as over reaching.  Tackling life’s big questions in song, this is the kind of under the radar, neo-folk that gives you the easy kind of music you can kick back with but isn’t fluff."

  MIDWEST RECORD, Chris Spector

 

"I really like Croton's guitar work, very much in the tradition of many jazz guitarists throughout the years."

  The Run-Off Groove,  John Book