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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)
Lute Sonatas: Volume 7
Lute Sonata No. 48 in F-sharp minor [24:45]
Lute Sonata No. 15 in F-sharp minor [35:20]
Robert Barto (lute)
rec. 1-4 February 2005, Green Room, Offord Hall, Aurora, Ontario, Canada
NAXOS 8.557806 [60:05]


There has been considerable attention paid in some circles towards Sting’s Into the Labyrinth on Deutsche Grammophon. This, his latest album, features his performances of John Dowland. The spotlight has been placed not necessarily on Sting’s own performances, but, as I think was his main intention, towards the works of John Dowland and specifically his lute works. The works of Leopold Weiss, in this series, are well-situated to benefit from the subsequent rise in interest in lute music. 

This release, with performances of Sonatas 15 and 48, is a delight; a disc well worth listening to.  The series of the works of Weiss continues here with Volume 7; the first that I have heard.  From all indications, it will not be the last I have in my collection. 

Both of the sonatas here are eminently listenable, with the edge given to No. 48 which opens with a beautiful melodic line.  The entire Allemande: Andante has an expansive quality that Barto brings out wonderfully.  This piece, according to the liner notes, is undated, but is indicative of Weiss’s mature work.  This first movement makes quite effective use of the lower register of the instrument, which forms a firm foundation for the piece.  The following Courante, my favourite movement on this disc, continues the overall tone of the work, though in a lighter mood, and with faster tempo. Again it makes great use of the interplay between the lower bass strings that toll out under the swifter higher melody.  Barto’s playing here is effortless, with a sublime sense of timing and tone.  The sound quality is just what you’d expect from Naxos, cleanly done. The recording aesthetic is intimate, with enough ambient space to keep the sound from feeling too claustrophobic, though close enough to capture Barto’s breathing in certain passages.

Sonata 15, dated around 1723, is no slouch either, beginning gently, though without as prominently memorable a melody.   There are two versions, the earlier one being used for this recording.  A later version was copied around the time of Weiss’s death, according to the liner notes, and has movements from another sonata showing up in place of the shorter movements heard here.  It is unclear whether the later version was a mistake or reflected the composer’s intention.   The second movement in 6/8 time is delightful, bright and motivated, and this sunny demeanour follows into the next movement.  The Sarabande is a dignified piece that holds interest, beginning with the same chord that began the opening Allemande and continues with meditative calm and poise. The following Menuet gives us an intermediate triple-meter step toward the giddy Gigue that closes the sonata.

All in all, this is a delight to hear, and, of the discs I’ve received for review, the one I’ve returned to most often for repeated, enjoyable listens. 

David Blomenberg

see also Reviews by Glyn Pursglove and Jonathan Woolf


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