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Duets for Baroque Lute & Mandolino
Ernst Gottlieb BARON (1696-1760]
Duetto in G Major [10:43]
Paul Charles DURANT (?1712-69]
Duetto in G Minor [10:55]
Bernhard Joachim HAGEN (1720-67]
Duetto in C Minor [9:59]
(?) BLOHM (fl. 1718-59]
Concerto in C Major [8:48]
Ernst Gottlieb BARON
Concerto in D Minor [8:33]
Silvius Leopold WEISS [1687-1750]
Ciaconna, from Sonata in G Minor [4:42]
Bernhard Joachim HAGEN
Sonata in G Major [11:56]
Ernst Gottlieb BARON
Concerto in D Minor [10:33]
John Schneiderman (baroque lute)
Hideki Yamaya (mandolino)
Recording details not provided.
First recordings in these arrangements.

As Hideki Yamaya tells us in his booklet note, there are no known eighteenth-century duets for baroque lute and mandolino, “nor are there any accounts of them having been played together”. So, in one very obvious sense this cannot be regarded as an historically ‘authentic’ recording.

The ‘baroque lute’ was initially developed in France in the early 17th century; by the 18th century it was most commonly played in Central and Eastern Europe. As a distinct instrument within the lute family, the mandolino was a creation of the late 17th century in Italy. It had six courses unlike the four or five courses of its predecessor, the mandora. It was generally tuned in fourths. Italy remained its main home during the 18th century – where a fair quantity of music was written for it.

So, in the 18th century the baroque lute and the mandolino typically belonged to, and were played in, two different parts of Europe. However, given the huge diaspora of Italian musicians which spread across northern Europe in the 18th century, the mandolino must surely have crossed the alps on more than a few occasions. Yamaya reminds us that the Dresden composer Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), who also worked in Venice, wrote a concerto for mandolino. Conversely, as Yamaya observes in his booklet notes, “Baroque lute players visited Italy, either to study with Italian masters or for employment; most notably, the great Silvius Leopold Weiss sojourned in Rome between 1710 and 1714, accompanying his employer Prince Alexander Sobiesky of Poland. The two instruments could plausibly have ‘met’ one another and been united as duet partners. That that didn’t apparently happen, Hideki Yamaya sees as “a missed musical opportunity”. On the evidence of the performances heard on this disc that observation has real validity.

The two instruments complement one another very well. They do so in terms of range, for example: the “mandolino […] is the highest-pitched of the lutes, and also the only one in the true soprano-range, whereas the baroque lute is a tenor and bass range instrument” (Yamaya). They also complement one another in terms of both texture and dynamics. The most common duet partners for the baroque lute in the 18th century were the violin and the flute. Both of those instruments tend to take the dominant role in most such duets, often reducing the role of the lute to essentially that of an accompanist. But, as Yamaya argues, and as his arrangements demonstrate, the “[the] mandolino does not overpower [the] lute and is a more suitable accompaniment instrument to [the] lute”. The mandolino and the baroque lute make well-matched duet partners, functioning as more equal partners than, say, the violin and the baroque lute, each well equipped to be, by turns, solo instrument or continuo instrument.

Almost all of the music recorded here was originally written as duet music. Of the pieces by E.G. Baron, the ‘Duetto in G Major’ was written for flute and baroque lute, the first ‘Concerto in D Minor’ (tracks 13-16) for recorder and baroque lute, the second (tracks 20-22) for violin and lute. Durant’s ‘Duetto in G minor’ is known in two versions: one for two lutes and one for violin and lute. It is the latter which Yamaya has arranged for mandolin and lute (the booklet note implies that all the arrangements used on the disc are his). The duet ‘by’ Weiss is discussed later.

So these are not on any sense performances of original works of the baroque age. But they are ‘historically informed’ performances, thoroughly in the spirit of, and using the techniques found in, the music written for these instruments in the 18th century. There are, after all, more than a few ‘genuine’ duets for baroque lutes (e.g. by Weiss and also less familiar figures such as Adam Falckenhagen and Wolff Jakob Lauffensteiner) as well as a smaller number of duets for two mandolini with which comparisons can be made.

But the most important test comes in the listening and this CD passes that test with flying colours. Only an exceptionally well-informed scholar of the repertoire for baroque lute or for mandolino would, I suspect, have any idea that what they were hearing was, to a considerable degree, the work of a modern lutenist-arranger. It helps, of course, that both John Schneiderman and Hideki Yamaya are accomplished and experienced performers of baroque music and the two have frequently worked together. Schneiderman’s extensive and varied discography includes Kurt Kohaut:Lute Concertos (Profil PH0501) (with Ensemble Galanterie), Adam Falckenhagen: Opus 2 Partitas (Vgo Recordings VG1009), Eighteenth-Century Lute Music (Titanic Records Ti-65) – which, like the present disc, includes music by Blohm, Durant, Hagen and Weiss, Adam Falckenhagen: Sonatas for Solo Lute, Op.1 (Titanic Records Ti-237) and Bernhard Joachim Hagen: Sonatas for Lute & Strings (Dorian Sono Luminus DSL90907). Hideki Yamaya’s recordings include Ludovico Roncalli: Works for Guitar (Mediolanum M005) and The Archlute in 18th-century Italy (Mediolanum M006). Together, as the Schneiderman-Yamaya Duo their CDs include Beethoven for Two Guitars (Hänssler Classic HC 17029), Adam Darr: German Romantic Guitar Duets (Profil PH13052) and The Mandolino in 18th-century Italy (Mediolanum M004).

All three of the works by Ernst Gottlieb Baron, though far from profound or weighty, are attractive and enjoyable in their rifacimenti by Hideki Yamaya. Baron was born in the Silesian city of Breslau (now Wroclaw in modern Poland). He is now perhaps better remembered for his treatise Historisch-thoretisch und practische Untersuchung des Instruments der Lauten (Nuremberg, 1727) than for the music he wrote. After studying law and philosophy in Leipzig, between 1719 and 1728 he was employed as a lutenist in various Saxon courts; for four years from 1728 he held a post in Gotha. In terms of the positions he held, the most significant came in 1737, when he was given a position at the court of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia (soon to be King, as Frederick II, or Frederick the Great). The three movements of the ‘Duetto in G major’ which opens this disc are marked Allegro-Adagio-Presto. In the original version for flute and lute, there are no repeats in the first and third movements, but the performers have chosen to add repeats in the expected places, making the work sound less of a miniature and rather more substantial. There is some interesting dialogue between the instruments in all three movements. In the short Adagio (1:43) the mandolino is given some light and engaging passages (presumably originally played by the flute), with the lute largely in a supporting role. In the first ‘Concerto in D Minor’ Baron is heard at something like his best. The work consists of four movements (Adagio-Allegro-Siciliano-Gigue). This time the original score (for recorder and lute) does contain repeats and these are duly played. The Siciliano is a subtle piece with an elegant lilt to it, while the closing Gigue has a deal of vigorous ‘agitato’ writing. The whole work makes a formal and emotional statement rather larger than one expects (given that it is only eight and a half minutes long). If Baron had consistently written works of this standard, he would surely be better known. With regard to this ‘Concerto’, I made a comparison with the one recording I know of it in its original form, on Ernst Gottlieb Baron: Lute at the Court of Frederick the Great (Dynamic CDS 270), played by lutenist Pier Luigi Polato and the Ensemble Barocco. While I have no real complaints to make about the performance on the release from Dynamic, I have to say that I found this new performance by the Schneiderman-Yamaya Duo more satisfying (both the Siciliano and the Gigue are far more successful in the Schneiderman-Yamaya arrangement and performance). The direct comparison of these two recordings increases my admiration of Yamaya’s arrangements and serves to confirm the validity of many of Yamaya’s arguments, as summarized and quoted earlier. The work is definitely better for the replacement of the recorder by the mandolino – it now sounds more like a genuine duet between ‘equal’ voices, the sense of dialogue being much stronger. Baron’s other ‘Concerto in D Minor’, the work which closes this disc seems to me relatively uninspired in comparison – more typical of Baron’s general level (of uninspired competence) than is the spirited excitement of its fellow ‘Concerto’. The musical ideas in this ‘second’ (second, that is, in terms of this disc) Concerto are, on the whole, less interesting than those in the previously discussed Concerto.

I have more than once seen Bernhardt Joachim Hagen described as the last of the virtuoso lutenist-composers (indeed, Hideki Yamaya describes him in those terms). Hagen was probably born in Hamburg, but from 1637 onwards he was employed at the Bayreuth court of Princess Wilhelmine of Prussia, initially as an assistant to the court violinist (and kapellmeister) Johann Pfeiffer and, after Pfeiffer’s death in 1761, as court violinist. Yamaya describes Hagen’s music by saying that it is “clear, direct and above all, aims to please”. There is something of the galant about Hagen’s work – it seems to occupy a kind of borderland between the high baroque and the early classical. Two fine CDs of Hagen’s works for solo lute by Robert Barto, one on Naxos (8.554200) and one on Symphonia (SY98164) can be recommended, alongside the aforementioned recording of Hagen’s Sonatas for Lute and Strings by John Schneiderman. Though I wouldn’t demur with Yamaya’s use of the epithet ‘clear’ to describe Hagen’s work it is, I think, necessary to say that that clarity is actually achieved in ways that often pose considerable technical issues for those playing it. Of the two works by Hagen on the present disc, the ‘Duetto in C Minor’ is the more striking, primarily because of the intensity and range of emotion articulated in its three movements (Allegro moderato-Amoroso-Presto). The opening movement is hectic and somewhat unsettling – permeated by an undefined sense of unease. The second movement, on the other hand, is a leisurely delight, while the closing movement is an insistently energetic gigue. All three movements work well in Yamaya’s arrangements and are performed with commitment and accuracy by Schneiderman and Yamaya. Hagen’s ‘Sonata in G Major’ is made up of two movements, the first marked ‘Allegro con spirito – Amoroso’, the second ‘Vivace’. The first part of the opening movement is emotionally bright and positive (the writing, once more, is technically demanding) but ends abruptly, to be succeeded by the very different ‘Amoroso’ section, which is much darker and heavier in mood. The second movement is a kind of slow minuet, with a good deal of ornamentation (especially in the lute part), the gaiety with which the first movement began now wholly absent. The whole is an assured and interesting work, which gets a persuasive performance (in Yamaya’s arrangement) from John Schneiderman and Hideki Yamaya.

Durant and Blohm are the two most anonymous of the composers represented on this disc – anonymous both in the sense that little is known about them and insofar as their music seems to lack anything much in the way of individuality. Of Paul Charles Durant, Hideki writes that “biographical information is very scant, but we know that he was lutenist and chamber musician at the court of the Margrave of Bayreuth.” His ‘Duetto in G Minor’ is in three movements (Divertimento-Allegro-Menuet). The second is altogether more intense, even passionate, than the movements which precede and succeed it. Of Blohm only the surname seems to be known with any certainty, plus the fact that, according to Hideki Yamaya he was Viennese. His ‘Concerto for Lute and Violin’ was composed for lute and violin, though the violin (here replaced by the mandolino) largely takes a subordinate role; of its three movements (Allegro-Siciliano-Menuet) the last is the most attractive. The Allegro is no more than competent and the Siciliano is rather stolid; but the things come to life in the vivacity of the closing Menuet. This movement is enough to make me want to hear more of Blohm’s music.

Silvius Leopold Weiss is, of course, very deservedly the best-known and most highly-regarded of the lutenist/composers whose music is heard on this disc; personally, I regard him not just as a major figure in the lute music of the baroque age but also as a significant figure in Baroque music as a whole. The composer and writer Joseph Friedrich Reichardt claimed that Weiss and J.S. Bach once competed in improvised counterpoint. I know of no firm evidence that this event ever took place, but the two men certainly knew one another and respected one another’s work. Indeed, Bach chose to make an arrangement – the Suite for Violin and Harpsichord (BWV 1025) – of one of Weiss’s sonatas. Here Weiss is represented by a single movement, the ‘Ciacona’ from a sonata found in the so-called London Manuscript of Weiss’ work (British Library Add MS 30387). But of that sonata, probably intended as a duet for baroque lute and flute, only the lute part survives. In all the other cases on this disc, Hideki Yamaya’s task has been to ‘convert’ a part for flute, recorder or violin into a part for mandolino. Here he has had to write, using his familiarity with other works by Weiss, a part for mandolino to complement the existing part for baroque lute, responding to it, or occasionally ‘leading’ it and being plausibly in dialogue with it throughout. The result is far more successful than I dared to expect. The resulting piece sounds convincingly idiomatic, very much in the manner of Weiss, being polished and sophisticated, virtuosic and poetic in equal measure. In his booklet notes Yamaya writes “I would like to think that the present version of this great chaconne, if not what Weiss himself intended, is something that he would approve of.” I can’t, of course, speak for Herr Weiss, but as a modern lover of his music I have no hesitation in saying that I suspect Weiss would very probably have approved.

Like all of Yamaya’s arrangements on this disc (and this, of course, is rather more than ‘just’ an arrangement) his ‘version’ of Weiss’ chaconne is utterly convincing and evidences a profound and sympathetic knowledge of baroque idioms and, indeed, of that relationship between the baroque lute and the mandolin which seems to have gone largely overlooked in the Eighteenth Century. The playing of Schneiderman and Yamaya leaves nothing to be desired at any point and this disc is a pleasure from the first minute to the last.

Glyn Pursglove

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