The first volume
in Yasunori Imamura’s series of the complete Weiss lute sonatas
comes in the wake of the ongoing series by Robert Barto on bargain
price Naxos. Both play on modern, thirteen course lutes. In
Imamura’s case it’s a 1993 instrument made by Stephen Gottlieb
of London. He’s been recorded in the Evangelische Kirche St
Martin in Kilchberg, in Switzerland – and most attractively
I’ve had the opportunity
to listen to two of Barto’s set – volumes seven
of which volume seven contained the more remarkable music. Thus
it’s not really possible for me at this stage to make a reasoned
comparison between the two, since there has thus far been no overlap.
Some points do seem to be emerging however.
Imamura is a more
expansive player than Barto and he seems to be freer with dynamic
gradients; Barto therefore can be, or seems thus far to be,
more concentrated and less “improvisatory” in his approach.
The kind of rubato that the Japanese player employs is certainly
more pronounced than that which Barto would countenance. Both
performers, in short, take personal and somewhat divergent approaches
to the music.
Greater length doesn’t
imply a lack of nobility or gravity - as the performance of
the B flat major sonata demonstrates. Buoyancy in the faster
dances vies with aristocracy in the more reflective movements
to produce a comprehensive and convincing whole. Note that the
opening Introduzzione is imported from Sonata No.27/S-C
No.50. The Prelude and Fantasie in C minor was written circa
1719. The first movement derives from Sonata No. 21/S-C No.
27 and the second from No.16/S-C No.9 – and is played on an
11 course lute.
The other big work
is the seven-movement A minor sonata. The opening movement is
improvised by Imamura and the Allemande is equally convincing.
He may be slow in the Courante but he manages to sustain melody
lines. The Bourrée is imported from Sonata 14/S-C No.42 and
has a terpsichorean vitality to it, as indeed does the metrical
daring of the Sarabande.
Imamura has made
a fluent and satisfying start to what one hopes will be an odyssey
of similar proportions to that of Barto. The market can certainly
sustain two cycles of individualism and stylistic awareness,
such as these. Price will play a part in the equation, as will
the respective priorities of both lutenists.