Although this is the first time that I have had occasion to review the baroque
lute playing of Robert Barto I am nevertheless aware of his work on previous
volumes of the Sonatas by Weiss and am suitably impressed with his approach
to this music.
For many the works of Weiss came to us via a small selection of transcriptions
for guitar performed by Julian Bream or John Williams and the like. Here
we have something that is probably the nearest we are likely to get to the
original, something Weiss himself could relate to and I rather hope he would
Born in Germany, Weiss, a contemporary of J S Bach (and who allegedly knew
him), was attributed as being the finest lutenist of his generation. It has
even been suggested that Bach's own lute works were written after he had
heard Weiss and possibly were written for Weiss.
These Sonatas take the traditional baroque form with the Allemande, Courante,
Sarabande, Bourrée and Menuet. Weiss substitutes the "Prelude" for
an "Ouverture" in the French style and a "Presto" for a "Gigue" in No. 46;
again a "Presto" replaces the "Gigue" in No. 37.
The brighter character of Nos 46 and 37 in their major keys flank the more
brooding No. 21 in F minor with its dark "Sarabande" and no less intense
"Menuet". All these Sonatas are fine examples of the genre.
Barto's playing is authoritative; the contrapuntal voicing well balanced
with a strong bass and defined top lines. The ornamentation, when used, is
telling, but for the most part these are employed sparingly, which in this
instance works well. The feeling of dance is well pronounced. The chosen
speeds of the various movements complement each other and hold the structure
of each Sonata together as a whole. This all goes to demonstrate Robert Barto's
firm understanding of the form.
These performances employ the Baroque Lute, their intended instrument and
should go a long way in establishing the works of Weiss among a wider audience.