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Sylvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)
Early Works (1706-1717)
Fantasie and Fugue in D [6:00]
Suite in A (SW 44) [14:28]
Sonata in D minor (SW 61) [8.29]
Sonata in C minor (SW 7) [14:36]
Fantasie in D minor [3:39]
Sonata in F major (SW 1) [22:12]
Joachim Held (lute)
rec. 2017, Erlöserkirche Vahrendorf, Germany

Sylvius Leopold Weiss was a prolific German composer and performer of music mainly for the lute; he was born near Breslau in Silesia, at the time part of Germany and now known as the Polish city of Wroclaw. He is known to have composed in excess of a thousand pieces for the instrument, although only about 850 survive; these pieces were grouped together as sonatas, a misleading term as they can be more accurately classed as suites. He enjoyed great fame and was regarded as the greatest lute virtuoso of his day, his fame led to many influential patrons and friends, one such friend being Wilhelm Friedman Bach, through whom he met J S Bach, the subject of a supposed challenge where Weiss would improvise on the lute and Bach on the harpsichord.

My prior knowledge of Weiss’ music is limited to a single Naxos disc performed by Robert Barto, this is volume 9 (8.570551) of a series of at least eleven discs, and offers the listener Sonatas 32, 52 and 94, so no real comparisons can be made, other than to say that I find the playing, recorded sound and notes superior in this new release by Joachim Held. Here Joachim Held proves a much more sympathetic and accomplished lute virtuoso; in his hands the music comes to life and dances off the page, here is a player for whom the instrument sings.

The music performed on this disc, whilst much earlier than on the Naxos disc, shows a great deal of maturity and accomplishment as well as virtuosic flair. The opening D Major Fantasie and Fugue make a bold statement, whilst the Sonata in F major, composed in Prague in 1717, not only shows how Weiss’ compositional style developed, but also points to how his music would progress. This is a Sonata full of virtuosity and originality as well as tenderness and excitement, with its dance-like sections leaping off the page.

As already stated, everything about this disc is excellent, with Joachim Held’s performance making me want to hear him play more of this music. The title of this disc is Sylvius Leopold Weiss Early Works, and whilst, unless I have missed it, the booklet does not say that it will be followed by any ‘middle’ or ‘later’ period music, it would be a shame if it wasn’t, as Weiss’ music deserves to be heard in hands as capable as those of Joachim Held.

Stuart Sillitoe



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