Weiss in Nostalgia
Sylvius Leopold Weiss: Suites from the London Manuscript
Alex McCartney, Baroque lute
Veterum Musica VM019. 48’41
Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1750) is the go-to composer for all lute and early guitar performers. He was born, and started his professional life, in Breslau Silesia (now Wroclaw, Poland) before moving to a number of the German-speaking courts, culminating in a post at the Dresden Court of Augustus II (der Starke: the Strong), where he was the most highly paid musician. The London manuscript GB-Lbl30387 contains about half of Weiss’s known music, including the two Suites recorded here (in F & d). It was purchased by the British Library in 1877, and was probably put together in Prague some time after 1730
The early pieces (dating back to about 1706) were intended for an 11-course lute, but several have been altered to suit the 13-course instruments that were developed from around 1720. Quite understandably, Alex McCarthy plays throughout on a 13-course lute, adding some of his own notes from the additional two lower strings.
After the improvisatory opening Preludes, both Suites continue with a sequence of dance movements, 10 in the Suite No.1 in F, 5 in the Suite No.13 in d. Six of them are Menuets, some rather reflective. There is an attractively bouncy Gigue in the first Suite. Each of the Suites includes an additional piece drawn from the manuscript.
Alex McCartney catches the varying moods well, playing with a sensitive delicacy of touch. More information and download and purchase options can be found here.