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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)
Lute Sonatas - Volume 9
Sonata No.52 in C minor (1740s) [30:58]
Sonata No.32 in F major (1720-25) [21:50]
Sonata No.94 in G minor [12:40]
Robert Barto (baroque lute)
rec. St Andrew’s Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire, April 2007
NAXOS 8.570551 [65:29]
Experience Classicsonline

Robert Barto’s distinguished Weiss recordings for Naxos have now reached volume nine. As before he demonstrates a wide range of tone colours, immaculate technical address and an unerring appreciation of Weiss’ quasi-improvisational style. The result is a trio of performances that in every way meets the expectations now placed in the lutenist. And if none of these works approaches the majesty of those contained in, say volume seven of the series (see review) then one must also concede that they nevertheless contain all those elements that make Weiss so noble, so expressive and so powerfully important a composer in this milieu.
The C minor sonata, cast in six movements, is by some way the longest and grandest of the three here. The extensive French overture is beautifully nuanced in all three of its sections, Barto’s technical armoury entirely equal to the demands placed on it and his colouristic sense fully engaged from the start. The Campanella-like Bourée sees him emphasise the bell like articulation implicit within it and he does so with brilliant articulation. As ever he plays Weiss’s slow movement with affecting lyricism; the most impressive in this set is the Siciliana of this C minor, which is taken at a suitably slow tempo. The concerto-like flourishes of the Presto finale are despatched with aplomb, the writing rich and externalised, and the playing virtuosic.
The F major [No.32] is an earlier work written conjecturally some time between 1720 and 1725. It’s performed in the Dresden version as three copies survive, representing two different versions. Its Allemande is refined and leisurely and full of decorative assurance but for me the highlight is the Bourée. Not only is this an example of Weiss at his most uplifting but it also reveals some of Barto’s great strengths – an ability to infuse the music with the most buoyant and immaculate rhythmic incisiveness allied to great warmth of tonal resources. These qualities are heightened by the succeeding cantabile of the Sarabande and by the Gigue that concludes the sonata. One of the revisions undertaken by Weiss was to replace a Gigue in 6/8 with one in 9/8 and the result is engaging and buoyant.
The final work stands at a slight remove from its companions. The G minor No.94 derives from a manuscript in the Glinka Museum in Moscow, music conjecturally brought to Russia from Dresden by Weiss’ pupil Bielogradsky. Whatever the exact origin or derivation it’s a small, charming series of dances with a delightful Paisane and a rare, early use of the Polonaise in its penultimate movement.
The recording, made in St Andrew’s Church, Toddington, is once again first class and Tim Crawford’s notes enhance this characteristically fine disc. Barto has competitors in Weiss recordings – Imamura and Lindberg among them - but for my money he is the most eloquent of them all, and this comprehensive series is a tribute to his skill and involvement.
Jonathan Woolf
Reviews of other releases in this series
Volume 2 - 8.553988
Volume 4 - 8.554557
Volume 5 - 8.554833
Volume 6 - 8.555722
Volume 7 - 8.557806
Volume 8 - 8.570109


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