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Penguin Guide, January 2009

WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 1 (Barto) - Nos. 11, 42, 49 8.553773
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Barto) - Nos. 5, 25, 50 8.553988
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Barto) - Nos. 2, 27, 35 8.554350
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 4 (Barto) - Nos. 21, 37, 46 8.554557
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 5 (Barto) - Nos. 38, 43 / Tombeau sur la mort de M. Cajetan Baron d’Hartig 8.554833
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 6 (Barto) - Nos. 7, 23, 45 8.555722
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 7 (Barto) - Nos. 15, 48 8.557806
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 8 (Barto) - Nos. 19, 34, 36 8.570109
WEISS, S.L.: Lute Sonatas, Vol. 9 (Barto) - Nos. 32, 52, 94 8.570551

In layout Weiss’s Lute Sonatas are very much like the suites and partitas of Bach, usually beginning with a Prelude, followed by a group of dance movements: Allemande, Courante, Bourrée, Saranbande, Menuet and Gigue. Sometimes Weiss closes with a Chaconne (Suite 6), Passacaglia (Suite 14) or an unusual movement, like the striking Paysane which ends Suite 25. The music is invariably through-composed, so that every movement is interrelated, and although each has an independent thematic existence one sometimes has a sense of a set variations.

On Naxos Roberto playing a baroque lute, shows us the breadth of Weiss’s achievement and how naturally the music suits the lute, rather than the guitar. On almost all the discs offered so far he combines one early, one mid-period and one late Sonata.

The manuscripts of the Sonata in G minor (No. 5), which opens the second disc, was found in London. It is most winning work, spontaneously integrating its basic musical material throughout, with the central Courante and Bourrée particularly infections, and a jaunty finale.

No. 2 (8.554350), is another early work, found in the London manuscript. It too is all of a piece, so that the continued use of the remaining six movements very neatly. No. 35, written in D minor (the natural key of the baroque lute), is one of the composer’s last and most ambitious works, probably dating from the 1740s. The measured Allemande is harmonically exploratory, and even the finale, by use of the instrument’s lower tessitura, provides virtuosity without loss of gravitas.

No. 46 in A minor (8.554557) is another late work; it begins unusually, with a French Overture (though without the usual reprise of the opening section). This is another of Weiss’s most inspired and varied Sonatas, very outgoing, with a lively Bourrée, followed by a halcyon Sarabande, a pair of Minuets ( in A minor and A major) effectivekt contrasted in mood, and one of the composer’s bravura moto perpetuo finales.

No. 43 (8.554833) is one of the composer’s last works—and one of his finest. On the disc if follows immediately after the solemn Tombeau for Count Jan Anton Losy (a celebrated Bohemian nobleman and lutenist), and theSonata’s dignified opening Allemande might almost be a funeral march for the lamented Count. The A major Sonata (No. 45) isone of Weiss’s most mature works, coming from the 1740s.Like No. 50, it  has an Introduzzione, but this time in the form of a French Overture which introduced a theme a little like Handel’s Harmonious Blacksmith.
Among the more recent issues is Sonata No. 52 in C minor. A large-scale work than most of the others, it includes another Overture as well as the usual dance movements and a closing Presto. It plays for 31 minutes and is very considerable work. Sonata No. 94 in G minor is less ambitious, but it has a rather melancholy opening and then lightens to cover a wide variety of mood in five movements and a comparatively modest time-saon.

But the quality of Weiss;s invention seems inexhaustible throughout all these works, and he has a worthy exponent in Robert Barto, a virtuoso lutenist if a high order and a fine musician. He understands this repertory perfectly, never seeking to impose his personality over that of the composer, and the first-class Naxos recording gives him a natural presence.

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, October 2001

"Their Vaughan Williams triptych comprising the two string quartets and the Phantasy Quintet strikes me as their most distinguished release to date. No praise is too high for the Maggini's advocacy of this rewarding repertoire; theirs is playing of exceptional insight and dedication."

Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, August 2001

"The last movement is the highlight of this disc: a folk song inspired statement of visionary serenity reminiscent of the great last movement of his Fifth Symphony. It is music of transcendent beauty and spirituality...The Maggini Quartet continues its mastery of British chamber music with this disc and the sound is the perfect balance between immediacy and resonance. Another valuable addition to Naxos' brilliant British music series."

Steve Smith (Classical: Keeping Score)
Billboard, June 2001

"The Magginis give gorgeous, persuasive accounts of all three (Vaughan Williams String Quartets), aided by a superb recording."

David Hurwitz, June 2001

"These lovely works certainly deserve more attention on concert programs than they currently get. The two string quartets in particular demonstrate the composer's compositional mastery at every turn, especially the A minor quartet of 1942/43 with its echoes of the great orchestral works of the same period (the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies and the ballet Job). By and large, the Maggini Quartet does well by the music. ...The group plays with real spirit in the Second Quartet's Allegro appassionato opening and perfectly captures the mercurial mood of the First Quartet's finale. ...So if you lack these works in your collection, there's no need to hesitate. This one's a winner."

Christopher Wood
BBC Music Magazine, June 2001

"Recordings of Vaughan Williams's chamber music are thin on the ground. Typically, it is Naxos, with its increasingly authoritative list of English music recordings that has taken it upon itself to plug the gap. It could not have done better than enlist the excellent Maggini Quartet, whose Naxos recording of Walton provided so many pleasant surprises... the Maggini disc is unquestionably the one to go for. Five stars for both performance and sound."

Richard S. Ginell
Los Angeles Times, May 2001

"This is a graphic example of a bargain label taking on a full-priced label in a repertory staple and running them off the court...Anissimov's Irish orchestra stands up well against Cincinnati's powerhouse, and Naxos' sound actually has more luster...when you consider that Telarc's disc will set you back around 17 bucks whereas the Naxos costs about seven, it's no contest."

Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), May 2001

"All three works are perfectly conceived for the intimacy of the medium, inviting a delicacy and serenity of utterance that the Maggini interprets with engaging fluency and sensitive inflection.

The First Quartet and the Phantasy Quintet, with extra viola, are both early works, attesting to the tuition that Vaughan Williams received from Ravel in Paris.

His personal voice, however, is already in evidence, and is even more clearly defined in the later Second Quartet in A minor, a work that, for all its incisiveness in the opening movement and scherzo, radiates a tranquil beauty.

The Maggini has made a particular contribution to the performance of English music, and here its sense of style is acute, beautifully realising the refinement of Vaughan Williams's translucent string textures and his intuitive response to the instruments' expressive potential."

Michael Oliver
Gramophone, May 2001

"The Maggini Quartet and Garfield Jackson clearly love this music deeply; they play it with great beauty of tone and variety of color and with passionate expressiveness. The ample recording allows both grand gestures and quiet intimacy. A coupling to confirm, if you ever doubted, that Vaughan Williams was a great composer."

Andrew Achenbach

"It's high time such rewarding repertoire came in from the cold... As for the Maggini Quartet's actual performances, they are past praise in their rapt dedication, searching intelligence and judicious tonal blend... Sound and balance, too, are just about perfect. An outstanding disc in every way and astonishing value for money."

Andrew Farach-Colton
Barnes & Noble

"In a single musical line Vaughan Williams conjures up the lush, lonely hillsides of rural England. It is a magical beginning, and especially so in this gorgeous performance by the Maggini Quartet­Kthis disc is perhaps their best yet­KWith a high-quality recording and a low asking price, this is one beautiful bargain."

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