Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)
Lute Sonatas - Volume 10
Sonata No.28 in F major ‘Le fameux Corsaire’ (c.1719) [24:01]
Sonata No.40 in C major (c.1728) [38:26]
Tombeau sur le mort de M. Comte de Logy (1721) [11:51]
Robert Barto (Baroque lute)
rec. October 2008, St Andrew’s Church. Toddington, Gloucestershire
NAXOS 8.572219 [74:18]

I see that my complimentary words regarding volume seven of Robert Barto’s Weiss series are - thankfully, anonymously - reprinted on the back of the jewel box for volume ten. I thought I recognised the phrase ‘the most eloquent of them all’ in relation to Barto’s exploration of the lute sonatas, and so it proved. This has been, indeed, a profoundly satisfying, intellectually nourishing and technically impeccable undertaking in which the baroque lute assumes so many ranges of feeling, so many timbral shades and colours that it proves impossible to resist the allure of both music and the music’s executant.

The thirteen course lute in any case adds an even greater range of timbres, a depth of sonority that draws one in. The sound-world seems endless both vertically and horizontally. The expression thus seems to grow exponentially. So it proves in the latest instalment.

The earlier sonata – it’s a feature of the series not to run chronologically; Weiss had early, middle and late periods – was written c.1719. The dance patterns are explored with mesmeric understanding by Barto. The typically rounded exploration of the bass sonorities of the ‘enlarged’ lute is one component, but so too is the warmly textured account of the Courante, say, with its buoyant rhythmicality. The gentle and reflective Sarabande is lighter than one usually finds with Weiss, certainly in relation to the late sonatas, but this lighter-textured approach suits the airy Menuet and the fluid virtuosity of the Presto finale, its resonant vitality not pressed too hard by Barto.

The C major, penned around 1728, is a mid-period work. This is a larger sonata, lasting fully thirty-eight minutes, but it’s one measure of Barto’s mediation that you are never conscious of the relative length of a work such as this. It’s something I’ve been aware of throughout this series; the ability to halt time. The measured gravity of the Entrée is enhanced by the grandly noble extended bass notes. Try the Courante where articulation is spot-on, where colour is plangent and the rhythmic underpinning moves the dance forward with inexorable but never inflexible control. Well, the superlatives could go on for ever I suppose; the ‘improvised elaboration’ of the Sarabande – long, slow and gentle – or the so-called, as per the notes, ‘concerto allegro’ of a finale. This opens with vivid thwacking and ushers in some virtuoso writing, fit for a Weiss or Prince Lobkowicz himself – a performer and composer into the bargain.

The last piece is the gravely powerful Tombeau sur le mort de M. Comte de Logy, where the sense of pathos is generated through cadences of unremitting nobility and haunting intimacy.

Marvellously vivid performances, and beautifully recorded into the bargain. Enough said.

Jonathan Woolf