One of those special discs where the combination of repertoire and performances is of such unerring quality that it can justly be called definitive, Paul O'Dette's 1991 recital of lute works by Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger is as good as it gets. Born in Venice, Kapsberger was unsurpassed in his times as a lutenist. His published collections of works for his instrument were considered all but unplayable by anyone but himself at the time they were first published./quote]
The issue of authenticity of Bach’s so-called lute music is one that continues to perplex artists today; most of the recordings of Bach’s lute music range from transcriptions of the cello and certain solo violin suites to other more capriciously chosen works that are made to “fit” the instrument. Indeed, one of the best (and most popular) of such collections, that by Nigel North (Linn Records, “Bach on the Lute”), consists entirely of these violin and cello works, albeit with the not-uncommon idea of such works finding their way into the repertoire of all sorts of related instruments.
The Swedish lutenist, Jakob Lindberg, developed his first passionate interest in music through the Beatles. He started to play the guitar and soon became interested in the classical repertoire. From the age of 14 he studied with Jörgen Rörby who also gave him his first tuition on the lute. After reading music at Stockholm University he went to London to study at the Royal College of Music. Here he further developed his knowledge of the lute repertoire under the guidance of Diana Poulton and decided towards the end of his studies to concentrate on Renaissance and Baroque music.
Nigel North is one of the finest lute players in our midst today, and his legendary four-CD set, ‘Bach on the Lute’ (Linn records 1994 to 1996) remains unsurpassed in its technical and musical brilliance. Now, he completes his journey with a double CD combining Bach's original 'lute works' (more likely written for Lautenwerck, or luteharpsichord), with North's own lute transcriptions of Bach's music for flute, organ, and more. This is an exquisite recording, full of space and intimacy, which makes you feel as though it is being played just for you. A must-have.
Like Sebastian Bach and François Couperin, Sylvius Leopold Weiss came from and continued a musical tradition. His father was Johann Jakob Weiss, his brother was Johann Sigismund Weiss, and his son was Johann Adolph Faustinius Weiss. Also, like Bach and Couperin, Sylvius Leopold was the most famous member of his musical clan, and during his long and distinguished career he taught a number of students who would become exceptional lutenists, Adam Falckenhagen and Johann Kropfgans among them. Following demands created by his exceptional reputation, Weiss traveled extensively before he settled at the court of Augustus the Strong in 1728; he remained there for the rest of his life. Weiss and Bach certainly met on more than one occasion as the latter visited his son Wilhelm Friedemann and also had an interest in music-making at the Saxon court. As a performer, Weiss was considered the finest of his time and many believed that his ability as a lutenist rivaled that of Bach as an organist and Scarlatti as a harpsichordist. His Berlin colleague, Ernst Gottlieb Baron, mentioned to a “Weissian Method,” probably a reference to his astounding and masterful technique, not to mention his style. Hundreds of Weiss’s works survive, chief among them six-movement sonatas or partitas that follow the accepted blueprint for the genre, i.e., Allemande, Courante, Bouree, Sarabande, Minuet, and Gigue.
Naxos has collected its four volume traversal of the lute music into a handy slipcase. All the volumes are available singly, but you can also buy the four together as a quartet of excellence, presided over by Nigel North, the acknowledged hero of the hour. What follows is a reprise of two volumes already reviewed - volumes 1 and 3 - and a look at volumes 2 and 4.
This attractively presented disc is not the same one recorded by Japanese-French lutenist Yasunori Imamura for the Capriccio label in 1998, even though the keys of the two lute sonatas, and the presence of a central pair of shorter works, makes the program look almost identical. Sylvius Leopold Weiss was nearly an exact contemporary of Bach's, and the notes by Beat Hänggi contend that were it not for the difficulty and obscurity of the lute, he would be nearly as well known as today. That's hard to swallow, considering the versatility of Bach's talents and the fact that Weiss occupies one small corner of the Baroque musical universe. Nevertheless, Bach is thought to have admired Weiss' playing, and may have written lute music for him. The comparison has some validity.