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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
Concerto in C major for two lutes [9:40] 1
Suite in D minor [9:10] 2
Sarabande in F major [4:02] 2
Ciaconna in F major [4:28] 2
Suite in B major [13:19] 2
Sarabande in D minor [3:51] 2
Gigue in D minor [1:55] 2
Suite in F major [10:58] 2
Suite in D minor [16:27] 2
Bernhard Hofstötter, Dolores Costoya (lutes)1; Bernhard Hofstötter (lute)2
rec. 12-14 July, 2006, Andreaskirche, Wannsee, Berlin
ATMA ACD22538 [74:39]


All the music here comes from two related manuscripts, only recently discovered. They were located in the library of Count Harrach, amongst the collections held in the family Schloss at Rohrau, east of Vienna (and home to an important private art collection). Prior to the Harrach library being transferred from Vienna to Rohrau in 1970, most of the music manuscripts in it were sold. The significance of these two manuscripts was perhaps not recognised at the time. One of the two manuscripts carries the title ‘Weiss Sylvio – Lautenmusik’; there are 64 pages in the manuscript and pretty well all of the works in it can safely be attributed to Weiss. The other manuscript is headed ‘Laten Musik von unbekannten Componisten’ (Lute music by unknown composers); this manuscript contains 65 pages and, again, pretty well all can be confidently attributed to Weiss, either because they are versions of compositions known to be his from other sources or on clear stylistic grounds. Some pieces from the manuscripts appeared in the anthology Klingende Schätze aus Schloss Rohrau, issued by Cavalli (CCD 446) in 2005 along with works by Angelo Ragazzi, Vivaldi, Francesco Alborea and Gottfried Finger. Now we have premiere recordings of more material from the manuscripts, most notably the Concerto for two lutes. I believe that this is the first time that the music for one of Weiss’s duos has been found complete. There is other music here which was already known, though it turns up in company with different companions as it were, in different sequences of movements and so on.

The duo is a real discovery, a minor masterpiece of counterpoint and harmony, and is played quite beautifully here. Weiss’s music synthesises elements from the traditions and idioms of both France and Italy, but it has a distinctly northern European quality. One hesitates to speak of Germanic gravity, but certainly a kind of seriousness of mind (which sometimes topples over into a rather melancholic strain) characterises many of Weiss’s compositions, and these newly discovered works are no exception. At times one feels that like a certain important (northern European) predecessor of his amongst masters of the lute, Weiss - as a composer at any rate - might have been described as semper dolens. Some of his slower movements exude a kind of dignified pathos, as in the lovely allemande of the second Suite in D minor here. Even when the music is more rapid, as in the gigue which closes the first Suite in D minor, the music never approaches the skittish or playful, having too much an air of self-restraint about it.

In his booklet note, Joachim Lüdtke refers to a poem in praise of Weiss by Johann Ulrich König (1688-1744). Some phrases from that poem which Lüdtke doesn’t have occasion to quote surely capture very well the particular qualities of Weiss’s own playing - he was famous as an improviser as well as a composer and instrumentalist. König tells us that “he plays … so that the heart feels it”, and that his playing was full of “pitiful loving persuasions” (my translation). Such a tone is well captured in the playing on this CD and Hofstötter’s work is grounded in a sympathetic understanding of the inner nature of much of Weiss’s best music.

Any listener who has enjoyed other recordings of Weiss’s music will surely want to hear the ‘discoveries’ on this CD – not just because they are discoveries but because they are fine music well played. The recorded sound is excellent.

Glyn Pursglove


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