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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
Lute Sonatas, Volume 6

Sonata No. 45 in A major [33:56]
(1 Introduzzione [5:38]; 2 Courante [7:43]; 3 Bourrée [4:21]; 4 Sarabande [6:28]; 5 Minuet [3:43]; 6 Presto [6:04])
Sonata No. 7 in C minor [17:51]
(7 Allemande [5:14]; 8 Courante [2:13]; 9 Gavotta [1:22]; 10 Sarabande [3:35]; 11 Minuet [3:14]; 12 Gigue [2:14])
Sonata No. 23 in B flat major [22:53]
(13 Prelude et Entrée [3:33]; 14 Bourrées I et II [4:35]; 15 Gavottes I et II [4:20]; 16 Sarabande [3:35]; 17 Minuets I et II [3:41]; 18 Saltarella [3:09])
Robert Barto (baroque lute)
Rec. Green Room, Offord Hall, Aurora, Ontario, Canada, 4-7 October 2002. DDD
NAXOS 8.555722 [74:40]

 

The composer whose music is presented on this disc is a strident reminder of the enormous vulnerability musicians have in relation to their hands.

Jacqueline Du Pré’s multiple sclerosis robbed her of digital facility, and finally her life. Neurological disorder dystonia deprived Leon Fleisher of functionality in his right hand for more than three decades. An accident severely damaged the right arm of Julian Bream and was predicted to destroy function in his right hand, although later he overcame this.

Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), the foremost lutenist of his time, was victim of a bizarre occurrence that rendered him unable to play the lute for almost a year. In 1772 a French violinist bit his thumb so savagely that the first joint was almost totally severed!

A composer whose work is confined to a single genre is bound to be considered an interesting specialist only and suffer from commensurate lack of recognition. Weiss is no exception and only now is becoming recognized as one of the most important German composers of the first half of the 18th Century.

An exact contemporary of J.S. Bach, Weiss is unfortunate to be in the shadow of one of the greatest composers of all time. The shadow cast by Bach is a long one affecting such remarkable talents as Handel, Rameau, Telemann, François Couperin and Domenico Scarlatti to name but the most eminent.

To compound this invidious position Weiss wrote only for an obsolete instrument. His music is in tablature, an arcane form of notation that demands reconstruction of historically accurate instruments and produces unique challenges in execution of the music. Only in the past three decades has the general listener had access that enables appreciation of the subtleties and nuances of this highly imaginative and sensitive composer.

One could be excused for assuming that the lute is the predecessor of the classical guitar which it was not, the guitar’s genesis being more aligned with the vihuela. However much of the lute repertoire transcribes well to the guitar and it is on this instrument that it is often more frequently heard than on the original.

It was the great British guitarist Julian Bream who did much to champion the renaissance of the lute. Bream’s playing on the lute embodies the same consummate musicianship as is evidenced in his guitar playing but the former is less popular among "purists". Some say that it sounds too much like his guitar playing, and others are uncomfortable with innovations employed in the construction of his instruments when compared to original designs. The instrument played by Bream is a Renaissance Lute. Different versions may have up to ten courses of strings in contrast to the later baroque (D minor) lute employed on the review disc which has up to 14 courses.

This new release on Naxos is the sixth volume in a series. A first class lutenist, Mr. Barto gives a polished performance that demonstrates strong empathy for the composer. This quality is always highly relevant to any performance. In such a specialty area it is of particular significance.

The Sonata No. 45 is quite delightful and reflects the Italian influence that Weiss acquired in that country during the period 1708-14 when he was in the service of Polish former royal family. It has been described as one of Weiss’s crowning achievements, and therefore among the greatest works for the instrument from any period.

This recording establishes yet another dimension of association between the lute and the guitar. Bonnie Silver and Norbert Kraft, who have together worked on most of the production and technical management of the excellent Naxos series for classical guitar, performed the same support for the review disc. Little wonder that it is "spot-on."

Those baroque lute enthusiasts who have enjoyed the first five volumes of lute sonatas by Weiss will find volume six irresistible. For those who may not have yet sampled the delights of Weiss, this new disc qualifies in every way as the perfect introduction.

Zane Turner



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