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David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2007

By the time Sylvius Leopold Weiss died in 1750 at the age of sixty-three he had assembled the most extensive catalogue of lute music attributed to one composer, and numbered more than six hundred scores. He was born in Breslau and formed part of a family of lutenists, of which he became the most famous, his payment for playing as a court musician in Dresden said to be the highest in Germany. Many of his composition were in the form of Sonatas, also described as Suites (or Serenatas), and were originally for his own performance. Each contained dance movements - such as the Minuet and Gavotte - the combined work usually of substantial length and varied in mood. Mixing French elegance with the brilliant sounds he had heard and absorbed during his years in Italy, they were to extend the general technique requited by lutenists of the period. Many only exist as solos, but detailed research into the scores has suggested they might have been accompanied. That maybe totally inaccurate, but the present disc takes the liberty of using a lute and mandolin duo, the results from the German duo both pleasing and with a happy approach to the dance idiom. By contrast little is known of the life of Johann Hoffmann who came in the generation following Weiss. He was obviously a mandolin player, all of his surviving music involving the instrument with the two sonatas here recorded requiring a 'bass' accompaniment probably intended for the cello.  That part is taken by the archlute and is mostly called upon to play simple chords while the mandolin performs feats of dexterity. Good to make Hoffmann's acquaintance though his music seems more busy than inspired. The recording is tight on the instruments without much air around. For a sample try track 12, the finale to Weiss's thirteenth sonata.

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