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Silvius Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)
Suite in C minor WeissSW 7 [24:15]
Suite in G minor WeissSW 3 [28:18]
Suite in D minor WeissSW 20 [22:33]
Konrad Junghänel (baroque lute)
rec. 1978/9, St Stephanuskerk, Melsen, Belgium
GLOSSA GCDC80013 [75:53]

Konrad Junghänel was something of a pioneer of Weiss performances back in the 1970s. His astute stylistic awareness ensured that the large series of recordings of the suites (or sonatas) earned significant exposure for the lute master of Breslau, a process that has culminated in – if the word didn’t somewhat imply a degree of redundancy in earlier performances – Robert Barto’s sequence of discs for Naxos, a number of which I have reviewed here; admiringly I may add.

Junghänel’s series for Accent has been mined before but Glossa presents these three 1978-79 recordings in largely the best possible light, housing the disc in an attractive card and enclosing a thoughtful booklet note. It would have been good, though, to have some biographical notes relating to the lutenist, whose tonsorial eccentricities bespeak the decade very nicely. In addition to his accomplishments as a lute player, he is best known as founder and director of Cantus Cölln.

Weiss’ solo sonatas or, as noted here, ‘suites’ are a minefield with regard to specifics. Glossa doesn’t give any detail beyond the mere key so I have given what I believe to be accurate Weiss numbering from the Sämtliche Werke, helpfully available online.

His performances are rich in expressive weight, the resonant depth of his playing being well captured in St Stephanuskerk, Melsen. He locates a finely judged balance between the rich melancholia of some of the movements and the complex polyphony of others, managing to create these large edifices through use of serious contrast. Weiss players such as Barto and Hopkinson Smith (on Astrée) may have other imperatives, perhaps, certainly insofar as the dance-based patterns are concerned, but there is no doubting Junghänel’s powerful authority here. His fluency and articulacy in the Gigue finale of the Suite in C minor – parts of the Ouverture of which derive from movements from sonatas 27 and 52 - are as impressive as the arresting harmonies that course through the opening Prelude of the G minor. He brings shape and colour to all he plays, bringing out the oppositional voicings in the Courante, for instance, or presenting a particularly expressive Sarabande from the same suite.

He is very much a measured, powerfully intense Weiss player, evoking those rich bass extensions with great finesse. Marrying drama with elegance of articulation, he ensures that the music never sags, but remains frequently startling in its ability to move the listener.
Jonathan Woolf



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