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Arte Nova 74321 721112 2CD

CD 1
Sonata No.21 in G minor
CD 2
Sonata No.25 in A minor
Allegro in D Major (Duet)
Menuet in A minor (Trio)
Fantasia in E minor

I have been an admirer of the music of Silvius Leopold Weiss since hearing the 'Tombeau sur la mort de M. Comte de Logy' which Julian Bream recorded in1965. At that time Weiss's music seemed to have been served in small portions, a Fantasia here or a Passacaille there. In later years complete Lute suites emerged, reinforcing Weiss's reputation as a great Lutenist/composer. So on the face of it Kurt Schneeweiß's project of transcribing all of Weiss's lute works for the modern six-string guitar appears most commendable.

At 59 minutes 34 seconds and taking up the entire 1st disc of this double CD set, the 'Sonata No.21' in G minor, in seven movements is long by any standards. The second disc is made up of 'Sonata No. 25' in A minor, at a mere 38 minutes 48 seconds, a duet the 'Allegro in D Major' a trio 'Menuet in A minor' these items being double and triple tracked respectively, a solo, 'Fantasia' in E minor concludes the set.

To successfully undertake works of this length the soloist must have great reserves of musicality to draw on, regardless of the quality of the music itself, if the time factor is not to weigh too heavily on the listener.

Although a technically good guitarist, with Kurt Schneeweißs playing, this is unfortunately exactly what happens; the pieces become intolerable long (the Gigue of the G minor Sonata alone clocks in at 17 minutes 14 seconds) and one-dimensional, wandering with no apparent direction, the dance rhythms of the individual movements being too understated for my liking, losing the essence of the music.

 So the question arises, how do you like your Weiss: played, shall we say, authentically on the Baroque Lute by the likes of Robert Barto (Naxos 8.553988); on the modern six string guitar; or by Erik Tolstrup on his excellent CD of music by Weiss, playing an eight string guitar (Barba 0997)? I am sorry to report that either of these options is preferable to Kurt Schneeweiß's approach to the musical style of this composer.


There seems to be some disagreement regarding the numbering of the Sonatas between Robert Barto's disc and Schneeweiß's, both quote the Dresden manuscripts as their source, yet No.25, which appears on both discs, is not the same work.

Schneeweiß's says in his inlay notes that No. 25 is Weiss's shortest Sonata but all three of the Sonatas played by Barto are substantially shorter (even allowing, I would have thought, for preferences of playing speeds).

Also Schneeweiß credits Julius (his spelling) Bream for his "adaptation" of the Bach 'Chaconne' whereas it is generally accepted that Segovia presented his well known transcription of this work in the 1920's, some ten years before Julian Bream was born.

 Andy Daly

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