Weiss: Lute Sonata in C; Lute Sonata in A; Prelude and Fugue in D minor

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LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Lute Sonata in C; Lute Sonata in A; Prelude and Fugue in D minor
PERFORMER: Yasunori Imamura (lute)
What Bach is to keyboard players, so Sylvius Leopold Weiss is to lutenists. The reason for his relative obscurity is not a lack of musical substance, but simply that almost his entire output is for the lute. Stylistically, Weiss combines Italian exuberance, French elegance and introspection and Germanic craftsmanship. And if that sounds too much like a car advert, I should also mention that even Bach admired Weiss, transcribing one of his lute suites for violin and keyboard. Of these two discs, Robert Barto’s choice of pieces is the more interesting: three substantial suites, including one in B flat with a lusciously pensive allemande, and a weighty A minor work. Yasunori Imamura is rather less generous, offering only two suites – both of them more galant, breezy works – and a brief prelude and fugue. This above all tips the balance in favour of Barto, as both musicians offer exceptionally fine performances. Imamura produces a warm, velvety tone, but some listeners may find the occasional sounds of breathing, and of fingers sliding across the strings, intrusive. Here and there his rhythm is less than secure. Barto’s sound is crisper, more edgy, but not without mystery in the sensuous preludes and sarabandes: a life of Weiss at budget price – don’t even hesitate. Kate Bolton