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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, December 2010

I’ve been following lutenist Robert Barto throughout his Naxos campaign on behalf of Weiss’s sonatas. Each volume is full of marvels; the music and the playing. My admiration therefore for Volume 10 stands for the series as a whole, but Barto’s ability to suspend time, phrasally speaking, reaches heights here in the C major. This is indeed distinguished music making.



Paul-James Dwyer
Early Music America, October 2010

This new release in the complete Silvius Leopold Weiss (?1686–1750) lute sonata series contains two sonatas (No. 28 and 40) and a tombeau, all from Weiss’s middle period. Sonata No. 28 in F major, “Le fameux Corsaire,” is a lyrical and descriptive masterpiece. The opening Allemande has softly undulating chords, after an opening that suggests a smooth and silent embarkation. A Courante follows, swiftly painting a picture of relentless waves splashing on shores; the journey begun. The third movement is a Bourrée, suggesting the industry of the on-deck sailors. The fourth, a Sarabande, finds the ship floating aimlessly on a placid body of water, perhaps in full summer heat, with its hint of rubato. Other passages in the six-movement work suggest speeding over the seas, the excitement of boarding ship, the anticipation of disembarking at the end of a trip, storms on the horizon and the endless expanse of the elements (water and sky), and the mind turning to the timelessness and ennui of being at sea for months at a time.

The beautifully measured and haunting bass lines of the Tombeau sur la mort de M. Comte de Logy make it an 11-minute gem. It was dedicated to Count Johann Anton Logy von Losinthal, who in his day was hailed as “the Prince of the Lute.” Barto excels as a sensitive and eloquent interpreter of Weiss, a composer who championed an instrument that declined in popularity during the course of his own lifetime. The life dedication to the lute of both composer and interpreter is almost palpable. One relishes the commitment of Barto directly, making this recording all the more cherished.

Barto, a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, continued his studies in Europe on a Fulbright scholarship. He is regularly on the faculty at Lute Society of America events and has given master-classes in Japan, Sweden, Italy, and Spain. This recording was made in 2008 in Gloucestershire, England; Barto plays a Baroque lute by Andrew Rutherford, a well-known builder based in New York. If you have not yet acquired any of the discs in this series, Vol. 10 is an excellent place to get a taste of its quality, dedication, and freshness.



Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, May 2010

This is the first volume in this established series to have come my way and it encourages me to investigate the earlier volumes…Barto’s tenth volume of Weiss offers a most entertaining programme, well recorded—close but not over-close—and, as usual with Naxos, presented with short but informative notes and with a cover illustration from a contemporary painter. I shall watch out for future releases.



Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, May 2010

Silvius Leopold Weiss was a near-exact contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach; the composers were born two years apart (Bach first) and died three months apart in 1750 (Bach first again). Weiss devoted his life to playing and teaching the lute, penning an extraordinary series of lute sonatas which this Naxos project attempts to record in full. It is a daunting task, given that the website slweiss.com lists 98 works in the series—though several of them are lost. Luckily, the series has so far proved that Weiss’s lute music is worthy of the treatment, and of the attention of world-class lutenist Robert Barto. I now own four volumes of the series, Vols. 7–10, and each whets my appetite for the next.

Weiss’s sonatas are, for the most part, devoted to traditional structure in name but surprisingly daring in actual content. They bring the usual baroque mix of allemandes, courantes, minuets, and sarabandes, but Weiss is constantly tinkering with these forms, expanding them to hold his own spacious imagination for melodic material and emotional import. Sometimes, as on this disc, courantes take on the tenor and length of fantasies, and previous issues have included minuets with multiple trios, movements of unending melody-spinning, pedal points and counterpoint, and a sarabande (on Volume 7) which begins, trickily, in disguise as a minuet.

As for the emotional tenor of the sonatas, they range from introverted, brooding works like the two sonatas in D minor on Volume 8 to sunny salon music, always eloquent, written to give the player modest technical demands and even greater expressive ones. Robert Barto has been consistently up to the task, with grace and a beautifully improvisatory approach which has, in past volumes, made me think of Weiss as a sort of baroque Chopin.

For this tenth volume, Barto brings us two of Weiss’s more outgoing works, beginning with the Sonata No. 28 in F major, Le fameux Corsaire, an outdoorsy charmer of a piece with lively dance movements and, one imagines fancifully, a fresh breeze of sea air. The subtitle, however, seems to have arisen not because the music has anything to do with pirates or the ocean, but, perhaps, simply because it was a catchy name. Who knows? Maybe a corsair with a patient ear for this type of musical good cheer would be happy to call it his own.

The Sonata No. 40, in C, is an epic of the form, nearing the 40 minute mark! But Weiss never wastes his time, whether in the gently rocking courante or the paysanne, the shortest movement but one of the most tuneful. The sonata’s eight-minute sarabande never grows old, a testament to Weiss’s skill in creating and then skilfully varying his melodic material. Movements like these emphasize Barto’s own instinct for quasi-improvisatory playing; he makes the carefully ornamented movement seem like a fresh invention of his own. And the equally long finale, which begins with a strong sense of purpose and never relents, made me glad that Barto honors every repeat in these scores. As the movement wends its way to a deeply satisfying conclusion, with a wonderful sense of homecoming, I immediately wished I could hear those last few moments again. Wish granted: the repeat let me hear it all once more!

The Tombeau sur la mort de M. Comte de Logy provides a moving close to the CD; here, to commemorate the death of one of Europe’s premiere lutenists, Weiss curtails his gift for melodic riches and slows down the pace for a plainspoken elegy on the simplest of themes.

As those who have heard the previous volumes in the series will expect, Robert Barto’s playing is perfect; the Weiss series has justifiably solidified his reputation as one of the greatest lutenists alive. As in previous volumes, Barto plays a lute by Andrew Rutherford, based on the 13-course instrument invented by Weiss himself. Sound quality, like everything else here, is exemplary.

In other words, this series continues to be an excellent introduction to the musical world of a great composer, in the hands of a lutenist with few equals. Collectors will need this album and anyone with an interest in the baroque era who has missed these discs so far is left no excuse. Robert Barto’s series of the Weiss lute sonatas is one of the most important, and most artistically accomplished, recording projects in baroque music today.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2010

Silvius Leopold Weiss was a near-exact contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach; the composers were born two years apart (Bach first) and died three months apart in 1750 (Bach first again). Weiss devoted his life to playing and teaching the lute, penning an extraordinary series of lute sonatas which this Naxos project attempts to record in full. It is a daunting task, given that the website slweiss.com lists 98 works in the series—though several of them are lost. Luckily, the series has so far proved that Weiss’s lute music is worthy of the treatment, and of the attention of world-class lutenist Robert Barto. I now own four volumes of the series, Vols. 7–10, and each whets my appetite for the next.

Weiss’s sonatas are, for the most part, devoted to traditional structure in name but surprisingly daring in actual content. They bring the usual baroque mix of allemandes, courantes, minuets, and sarabandes, but Weiss is constantly tinkering with these forms, expanding them to hold his own spacious imagination for melodic material and emotional import. Sometimes, as on this disc, courantes take on the tenor and length of fantasies, and previous issues have included minuets with multiple trios, movements of unending melody-spinning, pedal points and counterpoint, and a sarabande (on Volume 7) which begins, trickily, in disguise as a minuet.

As for the emotional tenor of the sonatas, they range from introverted, brooding works like the two sonatas in D minor on Volume 8 to sunny salon music, always eloquent, written to give the player modest technical demands and even greater expressive ones. Robert Barto has been consistently up to the task, with grace and a beautifully improvisatory approach which has, in past volumes, made me think of Weiss as a sort of baroque Chopin.

For this tenth volume, Barto brings us two of Weiss’s more outgoing works, beginning with the Sonata No. 28 in F major, Le fameux Corsaire, an outdoorsy charmer of a piece with lively dance movements and, one imagines fancifully, a fresh breeze of sea air. The subtitle, however, seems to have arisen not because the music has anything to do with pirates or the ocean, but, perhaps, simply because it was a catchy name. Who knows? Maybe a corsair with a patient ear for this type of musical good cheer would be happy to call it his own.

The Sonata No. 40, in C, is an epic of the form, nearing the 40 minute mark! But Weiss never wastes his time, whether in the gently rocking courante or the paysanne, the shortest movement but one of the most tuneful. The sonata’s eight-minute sarabande never grows old, a testament to Weiss’s skill in creating and then skilfully varying his melodic material. Movements like these emphasize Barto’s own instinct for quasi-improvisatory playing; he makes the carefully ornamented movement seem like a fresh invention of his own. And the equally long finale, which begins with a strong sense of purpose and never relents, made me glad that Barto honors every repeat in these scores. As the movement wends its way to a deeply satisfying conclusion, with a wonderful sense of homecoming, I immediately wished I could hear those last few moments again. Wish granted: the repeat let me hear it all once more!

The Tombeau sur la mort de M. Comte de Logy provides a moving close to the CD; here, to commemorate the death of one of Europe’s premiere lutenists, Weiss curtails his gift for melodic riches and slows down the pace for a plainspoken elegy on the simplest of themes.

As those who have heard the previous volumes in the series will expect, Robert Barto’s playing is perfect; the Weiss series has justifiably solidified his reputation as one of the greatest lutenists alive. As in previous volumes, Barto plays a lute by Andrew Rutherford, based on the 13-course instrument invented by Weiss himself. Sound quality, like everything else here, is exemplary.

In other words, this series continues to be an excellent introduction to the musical world of a great composer, in the hands of a lutenist with few equals. Collectors will need this album and anyone with an interest in the baroque era who has missed these discs so far is left no excuse. Robert Barto’s series of the Weiss lute sonatas is one of the most important, and most artistically accomplished, recording projects in baroque music today.



Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2010

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.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2010

The two lutenists under contract to Naxos - the other being Nigel North, who specialises in Elizabethan repertoire - offer a tantalizing and rich choice. North plays what sounds like a modern instrument, whose voice is loud and clear, while Barto's is a baroque lute that sings in a mellower, more subdued tone. It would make for an interesting comparison to have them switch repertoires; both are supreme masters and collectors are fortunate in having both artists on this very affordable label. One can only look forward to an ongoing (and hopefully full) conclusion of the Weiss cycle, and on to similar delicacies.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2010

We may have reached volume ten, but as on his death there was over six hundred works attributed to Silvius Leopold Weiss, we still have some way to go. Also variously described as Suites or Serenatas, we today know them as Sonatas created from dance movements—such as the Minuet and Gavotte—that were popular in aristocratic circles at the time. The present disc contains the Fortieth, possibly dating from the later years of the 1720’s, and is undeniably the most expansive from his middle period. It certainly questions the technical capabilities of the performer, particularly in the complex Paysanne, while the Saraband alone is a major piece of the period . It was composed for his patron, Prince Lobkowicz and his wife Anna Maria Wilhelmina, who must have been gifted lutenists to tackle such a work. It is coupled with the much earlier Twenty-Eighth, probably dating from 1719, and subtitled Le fameux Corsaire, though to whom it refers is unknown, the pirate known as ‘Blackbeard’ having been suggested. It is, in the context of the music, a rather spurious attribution, as it is a score in the well-trodden path of Weiss sonatas. The disc ends with the deeply sad Tombeau sur la mort de M. Compt de Logy, a member of the nobility living in Prague who was described at the time as ‘the Prince of the Lute’. Had it not been for his rank he would have been a leading touring performer of his day. The American lutenist, Robert Barto, is on top form, the left hand getting around the fast decorations with rhythmic exactitude, while his relationship with Weiss’s music is unsurpassed. I have heard no recording engineer on this planet who produces a more beautiful and realistic lute sound than John Taylor in his UK venues, and this disc is a masterpiece.






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10:54:39 PM, 28 December 2014
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