the great eighteenth century lutenist and composer, has
been memorably served in this disc, the seventh in Robert
Barto’s complete survey. I’ve not caught up with any of
the other volumes but if this one is representative of
the general standard then I can say nothing finer than
that both composer and performer kept me engrossed for
an hour, without distraction or intercession.
a contemporary of J.S. Bach it is perhaps inevitable that
he should share certain stylistic imperatives. The shared
Italian influence is the most obvious but what emerges
from both these sonatas – the later sonata may be technically
the finer but the B flat major is hardly less impressive – is
Weiss’s absolute command of each dance idiom, the expressive
potential embodied in the Sarabandes and the mighty sonority
of Weiss’s thirteen-course baroque lute with its magnificent
sonority. I have been critical of one or two guitar records
from Naxos with ruinously intrusive shifts but Barto proves
a master here.
depth and warmth of the Barto sound is a significant point
in the success of this disc. Technically impeccable despite
the myriad difficulties he faces, he manages to evoke the
sound-worlds of each movement with lyricism and with flair.
The extended bass notes ring out fully but with rounded
tone. The buoyancy of the Courante of the B flat major
Sonata belies the troublesome nature of the silent shifts.
When it comes to the Sarabande Barto brings great humanity
and dextrous warmth to bear. In the difficult Menuet – though
Barto as ever never gives one the impression that it’s
difficult - the rhythmic brio is pronounced.
later F sharp minor sonata is an even more magnificent
work. The subtlety and range of coloration in the opening
Allemande are matched by the deftness of the dynamics Barto
employs but even these are mightily eclipsed by the Courante.
Here the expansive, ceaselessly imaginative lines twist
and curl, nobly projected, with dramatic bass line pointing
adding its own drama – as deep as a fortepiano and more
resonant. The Sarabande is one of gravity and inevitability
and the Presto finale, once more teeming with digital problems,
is projected with wonderful élan. The articulation and
the runs are of crystalline precision; the amount of detail
flowing elasticity of both these sonatas is memorable and
the performances, ideally recorded in the Green Room of
Offord Hall in Aurora in Ontario, equally so. Truly a marvellous
Reviews of other issues in the Naxos Weiss lute sonata series