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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)
Lute Sonatas - Volume 1
Sonata in B flat major No.25/S-C No. 49 (after 1725) [31:33]
Prelude and Fantasie in C minor (c.1719) [5:18]
Sonata in A minor No.16/S.C.No. 43  (after 1725) [36:42]
Yasunori Imamura (lute)
rec. Evangelische Kirche St Martin in Kilchberg, Switzerland, August 2004
CLAVES 50-2613 [74:42]


The first volume in Yasunori Imamura’s series of the complete Weiss lute sonatas comes in the wake of the ongoing series by Robert Barto on bargain price Naxos. Both play on modern, thirteen course lutes. In Imamura’s case it’s a 1993 instrument made by Stephen Gottlieb of London. He’s been recorded in the Evangelische Kirche St Martin in Kilchberg, in Switzerland – and most attractively so.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to two of Barto’s set – volumes seven and eight, of which volume seven contained the more remarkable music. Thus it’s not really possible for me at this stage to make a reasoned comparison between the two, since there has thus far been no overlap. Some points do seem to be emerging however.

Imamura is a more expansive player than Barto and he seems to be freer with dynamic gradients; Barto therefore can be, or seems thus far to be, more concentrated and less “improvisatory” in his approach. The kind of rubato that the Japanese player employs is certainly more pronounced than that which Barto would countenance. Both performers, in short, take personal and somewhat divergent approaches to the music.

Greater length doesn’t imply a lack of nobility or gravity - as the performance of the B flat major sonata demonstrates.  Buoyancy in the faster dances vies with aristocracy in the more reflective movements to produce a comprehensive and convincing whole. Note that the opening Introduzzione is imported from Sonata No.27/S-C No.50. The Prelude and Fantasie in C minor was written circa 1719. The first movement derives from Sonata No. 21/S-C No. 27 and the second from No.16/S-C No.9 – and is played on an 11 course lute.

The other big work is the seven-movement A minor sonata. The opening movement is improvised by Imamura and the Allemande is equally convincing. He may be slow in the Courante but he manages to sustain melody lines. The Bourrée is imported from Sonata 14/S-C No.42 and has a terpsichorean vitality to it, as indeed does the metrical daring of the Sarabande.

Imamura has made a fluent and satisfying start to what one hopes will be an odyssey of similar proportions to that of Barto. The market can certainly sustain two cycles of individualism and stylistic awareness, such as these. Price will play a part in the equation, as will the respective priorities of both lutenists.

Jonathan Woolf




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