The cover of this delightful album is a little confusing. “Friends of the Lute,” with no subtitle, just two lists of names and one man with a lute in a case. “Friends of the Lute” is in fact a showcase for three great lute duets, accompanied by the flute, mandolin and harpsichord. All these pieces are excellent, and so is the playing. I hope you won’t put off exploring this enjoyable, little-known repertoire.
We have here the original version of J.S. Bach’s suite for violin and harpsichord, BWV 1025. Most scholars believe that the suite is an arrangement of a Silvius Leopold Weiss suite for lute and harpsichord, although the CD’s booklet advances the romantic theory that Weiss and Bach improvised the piece in performance together. Anyway, the lute and harpsichord are similar enough that they sound a little odd together, and balance is an issue, so you can see why Bach would make the arrangement. I still found the work enjoyable, but not as much as the rest of the disc.
The duets with flute and mandolin, by contrast, are total successes. It’s Weiss again in the lute-mandolin duo, a total joy which makes me wonder why the mandolin does not have more sonatas and solo works from across music history. Anna Torge’s playing is a welcome complement to Wolf’s. Neither gets to really let loose in this piece, which is half slow movements, but they definitely convey its charm and grace.
Ernst Gottlieb Baron steps in provide a duet for lute and flute, with Dorothee Oberlinger stopping by to play the flute part on a replica baroque instrument. A minor-key opening adagio lasts less than two minutes, making me wish - as the whole work does - for more.
Between the three big events on the programme, Wolf adds solo pieces for lute alone, up to Weiss’s usual high levels of compositional mastery. The booklet notes, a fictitious letter “from” the time period, are baffling, especially with no other essay provided. The sound is certainly fine, and the music meritorious, but given the odd presentation you wouldn’t lose anything downloading this one.