Weiss: Lute Sonatas 15, 48 / Robert Barto

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Though it has attracted less attention than some of the company’s other ventures, the Naxos series of sonatas for lute by Weiss, played by the American lutenist Robert Barto is one of which the company can rightly be very proud.

Weiss was the most significant lutenist of his age; born in what is now Wroc?aw in Poland, his family, who served at the local court, were already steeped in the traditions of lute-playing and he was first taught by his father. At the tender age of seven he was accomplished enough to play before Emperor Leopold I. Beginning his career in Wroc?aw (or Breslau as it then was), he went on to hold appointments in Düsseldorf and Rome – where he was part of the retinue of Prince Alexander Sobieski. After Sobieski’s death Weiss seems initially to have made a kind of musical tour of Europe, his playing being in such demand. In 1718 he chose to return to ‘fixed’ employment, accepting a well-paid post at the court in Dresden, where his colleagues included, at one time or another, Fux, Pisendel, Quantz and Zelenka. Dresden remained his base for the rest of his life, though the terms of his employment also allowed him to also to travel. He was unsuccessfully head-hunted by the Viennese court. He met Bach in Leipzig in 1739. Little of Weiss’s music was published during his lifetime.

In this latest volume of his series, Robert Barto plays on a thirteen-course lute, a design for which Weiss himself was probably responsible. It is a tribute to Barto’s virtuosity that he can handle so demanding an instrument with what sounds like ease; what is even more important is the beauty and subtlety of the music he makes upon it. Both of the sonatas – the term effectively meaning ‘suite’ - on this CD are in six movements. The B flat major sonata is made up of an allemande, a courante, a paisane, a sarabande, a menuet and a gigue; the sonata in F sharp minor consists of an allemande, a courante, a bourrée, a sarabande, a menuet and a presto. Though precise dates are hard to arrive at, sonata no.15 probably derives from the 1720s, no. 48 from late in Weiss’s career, perhaps as late as the 1740s.

Both are full of superb music, from the serious grandeur of the allemande which opens the earlier sonata to the dazzling presto which closes the later one. This is a disc for all lovers of the lute.

-- Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557806

  • UPC: 747313280629

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Silvius Leopold Weiss