Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

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.

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2007

I’ve reviewed Barto’s Weiss before (see review). Nothing in volume eight has given me any reason to mitigate, diminish or qualify the admiration for his playing that I expressed in volume seven. This is eloquent, technically adroit, textually sensitive and emotively distinguished playing by anyone’s standards.

Sonata Thirty-Six finds Barto balancing the broadly serene with dextrous control of melody lines. His slow movements are invariably powerfully expressive and in his hands the colours he evokes in the lower reaches of his Andrew Rutherford lute (New York, 1996) are a source of engagement and admiration. As before one finds the heart in Weiss’s Sarabandes and in one sense the heart of Barto’s playing resides in them as well.

The Sonata No.19, provisionally dated to 1719, has a lyrically flowing Allemande at its heart and is played with such dextrous control by Barto that its six and a half minutes pass with intense rapidly. The unusual Gigue that ends this sonata is nevertheless played with real verve and exciting dynamism.

Sonata No.34 is the longest of the three works in this volume. This was one of the pieces of his that had achieved a small vogue before the Second World War. Foremost amongst its very finest qualities are those that reflect the influence of J.S. Bach. All movements respond to Barto’s eager and sensitive playing – the tangy lower strings in the Bourée are a particular pleasure. And whilst it’s true that the Sarabande here is more compact and less intense than most other similar movements in his works its “stripped down” quality attests to a more concentrated core lyricism, one that bears its simplicity with nobility.

Barto’s cycle is impressive. 

William Yeoman
Gramophone, April 2007

Elegant and discerning playing you'll be happy to return to.

It's a curious fact that the sarabande's originally overt eroticism has never been entirely eradicated. Perhaps it's the same for any dance movement in your typical Baroque suite, but in the sarabande especially, sex and death always lurk just beneath the surface. With Weiss, this is accentuated by a provocative transparency in the writing and the melancholy timbre of the lute; with Robert Barto, it's in the way he seduces you by subtly manipulating patterns of tension and release in the music to reveal the body beneath the garments.

Here Barto uses three of Weiss's sonatas (suites) to form one "mega-sonata". The tensions inherent in the outer suites, both in D minor, are momentarily suspended in the central Sonata No 19 in F major - a key that, as Tim Crawford points out in his excellent booklet-notes, was in the Baroque period identified with peace and serenity. Sonata No 36, which opens the disc, suggests what's to come: an F major Sarabande provides an oasis amid the minor-key turbulence, while the Bourée sounds positively agitated in comparison with those found in the following suites. The more plain-speaking Sonata No 34, which brings the disc to a close, has been a long-time favourite with classical guitarists.

As with the previous volumes in this series, Barto doesn't overburden Weiss's music with exaggerated phrasing or excessive ornamentation. And his tempi always feel just right. As a result, you're more likely to return to these elegant, revealing performances again and again.

Mark Sealey
MusicWeb International, March 2007

Silvius Leopold Weiss loved the lute. An exact contemporary of J.S. Bach, he worked in the Dresden court composing hundreds of lute pieces. This volume by American Robert Barto is the eighth in his Naxos series.

For a variety of reasons - including an interdict on their distribution by his patron and the fact that many survive only in tablature, not to mention their extreme difficulty - it’s a wonder that we’re able to hear them at all. The provenance, near destruction and geographical scattering - collections exist in London and Dresden - make teeth-chattering reading. Indeed a sonata on the already-published Volume 1 (Naxos 8.553773) was misidentified as Number 36: it should be Number 11. This is all the more unnerving when one remembers in what high esteem Weiss was held both in Germany as lutenist while still alive, and subsequently by musicologists aware of his gifts and tantalised by the wished-for prospect of his having written music other than for the lute.

Barto presents three sonatas on this CD: Numbers 36, 19 and 34. It can be said from the start that the playing is sharp and expressive and thus that the CD can be immediately recommended. It will be interesting to see how a ‘rival’ series by Yasunori Imamura on Claves - so far only Volume 1 has been released on 50-2613 - compares. Barto’s approach more earthy than Imamura’s with slightly more poise and a ‘stringier’ sound; perhaps even more downright accomplished. Each has its merits and each more than passes muster. Reviews of previous volumes in the Naxos/Barto series on MusicWeb have been enthusiastic. Volume 8 is no exception.

Sonata - we should probably call it a Suite - 36 is highly typical of Weiss’s later approach: a three-part texture in cantabile style. It’s a lovely, gentle, work with intricacies and simplicities in equal measure. At times redolent of Bach - listen to the development of the end of the allegro, tr. 6, for example - the six movements follow one another like a happy, dancing couple.

Number 19 is harmonically conservative and shies away from anything at all angular or extrovert, though the music is full of impact and makes special use of folk dances. After listening to the Sonata, one seems to have experienced as much as heard the tunes, the overt and hidden rhythms and the contrasts between movements. Barto is highly skilled at leading us through that experience.

Number 34 is one of Weiss’s most popular sonatas and evidently was used for teaching. But it’s no simplified exercise. With superb part-writing and luminous, improvisatory singing sequences, it contains arguably the most lovely music on this CD.

If you’ve been collecting Barto’s Naxos Weiss series until now, you’ll need no encouragement to buy this latest volume. If you haven’t come across it yet, this is as good a place to start as any. If it’s the sound of the lute you’re after, then Weiss’s expertise drawing out every nuance will thrill and reward.

Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, January 2007

Each successive volume in this ongoing series of the complete works for lute by Weiss is welcome - this one especially, with the inclusion of the lovely and captivating Sonata No. 34 in d minor, acknowledged as his most popular work in the form. Robert Barto is a true master of his instrument, and the intimate quality of the recording is a joy.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group