Leopold Weiss loved the lute. An exact contemporary of J.S.
Bach, he worked in the Dresden
court composing hundreds of lute pieces. This volume by American
Robert Barto is the eighth in his Naxos series.
a variety of reasons - including an interdict on their distribution
by his patron and the fact that many survive only in tablature,
not to mention their extreme difficulty - it’s a wonder that
we’re able to hear them at all. The provenance, near destruction
and geographical scattering - collections exist in London and Dresden - make teeth-chattering
reading. Indeed a sonata on the already-published Volume 1 (Naxos 8.553773) was misidentified
as Number 36: it should be Number 11. This is all the more unnerving
when one remembers in what high esteem Weiss was held both in
Germany as lutenist while still alive, and subsequently by musicologists
aware of his gifts and tantalised by the wished-for prospect
of his having written music other than for the lute.
presents three sonatas on this CD: Numbers 36, 19 and 34. It
can be said from the start that the playing is sharp and expressive
and thus that the CD can be immediately recommended. It will
be interesting to see how a ‘rival’ series by Yasunori Imamura
on Claves - so far only Volume 1 has been released on 50-2613
- compares. Barto’s approach more earthy than Imamura’s with
slightly more poise and a ‘stringier’ sound; perhaps even more
downright accomplished. Each has its merits and each more than
passes muster. Reviews of previous volumes in the Naxos/Barto
series on MusicWeb have been enthusiastic. Volume 8 is no exception.
- we should probably call it a Suite - 36 is highly typical
of Weiss’s later approach: a three-part texture in cantabile
style. It’s a lovely, gentle, work with intricacies and simplicities
in equal measure. At times redolent of Bach - listen to the
development of the end of the allegro, tr. 6, for example -
the six movements follow one another like a happy, dancing couple.
19 is harmonically conservative and shies away from anything
at all angular or extrovert, though the music is full of impact
and makes special use of folk dances. After listening to the
Sonata, one seems to have experienced as much as heard
the tunes, the overt and hidden rhythms and the contrasts between
movements. Barto is highly skilled at leading us through that
34 is one of Weiss’s most popular sonatas and evidently was
used for teaching. But it’s no simplified exercise. With superb
part-writing and luminous, improvisatory singing sequences,
it contains arguably the most lovely music on this CD.
you’ve been collecting Barto’s Naxos Weiss series until now,
you’ll need no encouragement to buy this latest volume. If you
haven’t come across it yet, this is as good a place to start
as any. If it’s the sound of the lute you’re after, then Weiss’s
expertise drawing out every nuance will thrill and reward.