SILVIUS LEOPOLD WEISS
COMPLETE WORKS FOR LUTE - VOL. 1
Arte Nova 74321
Sonata No.21 in G minor
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.