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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.

Frank Hilberg
Die Zeit, November 2001

"Weiß ist ein Elegiker. Er hat den präludierenden französischen und den kantablen italienischen Stil verschmolzen. Alle seine Sätze offenbaren eine weite Spannung der Melodie und harmonischen Reichtum. Meist benutzt er ausge dehnte Akkordsequenzen, von denen einige noch heute im Jazz populär sind. Wahrscheinlich ist es reiner Zufall, dass die Allemande aus der Sonate B-Dur (Vol. 1, Track 8, ab 2'30) eine notengetreue Vorwegnahme des Standards Autumn Leaves ist, aber sie zeigt dadurch alle überzeitlichen Tugenden der Kantabilität.

Der idiomatische Legato-Stil von Weiß gibt den Lautenisten (und Gitarristen) manche Nuss zu knacken, was sich oft in gemächlichen Tempi, Zeitbäuchen bei haarigen Stellen und sonstigen Gemütlichkeiten niederschlug. Gegen Robert Bartos Klarheit wirken fast alle älteren Aufnahmen wie genuschelt. Sein virtuos, brillantes und zugleich musikalisches Spiel bringt die Werke in die Höhe, in die sie gehören. Denn die Musik von Weiß wurde nicht vergessen, weil sie qualitativ ephemer ist, sondern weil das Zeitalter der Laute ausgeklungen war und die von den Ausnahmemusikern gesetzten Maßstäbe nicht mehr erfüllt werden konnten. Da Weiß als Komponist ausschließlich Lautenmusik geschrieben hat, musste er in Vergessenheit geraten. Robert Barto - als ebenbürtiger Spieler- gräbt ihn wieder aus."

American Record Guide, February 2001

"Sylvius Leopold Weiss, a contemporary of JS Bach, was the most celebrated lutenist of his day. Active in Dusseldorf and Dresden, he composed hundreds of pieces, many of them only today being collated, edited, and sorted into definitive editions. Among his best known works are numerous sonatas and suites, such as those two releases. Like his compatriot in Leipzig. Weiss assimilated many elements from the two reigning international styles of the mid-18th Century. From the French, Weiss learned sophistication, balance, and nuance, while his study in Italy from 1708 to 1714 shows in his music's melodic charm and lyrical directness. Like Bach, Weiss's combination of these styles is typically German in its contrapuntal rigor, though without some of the Bach's intellectual severity.

These are both excellent recordings, and there seems little point in picking a favorite. Both players realize Weiss's music with style, elegance, and historical awareness.

Barto's playing is exuberant and free; the Courante from the Sonata in D (included on both recordings, but with an additional Passacaglia in the Moreno performance) is particularly appealing: virtuosic, joyful, and executed with extreme confidence. Moreno on the other hand is wonderfully expressive and intense; his playing makes one completely forget the lute's principal weakness: lack of dynamic range. His tone is exemplary: rich, round, and consistent. Both lutenists embellish tastefully and employ suitably flexible rhythms."

Martin Anderson
Fanfare, August 2000

"The American lutenist Robert Barto is a reliable, communicateive guide tothese understated masterpieces. His sound is rather brighter than I had expected, and he prefers relatively fast tempos, though the music never sounds rushed. enthusiastic recommendation."

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