Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750)/Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite in A Major for violin and obbligato lute, BWV 1025 [30:28]
Silvius Leopold WEISS
Suite in A minor for solo lute [21:36]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Partita II in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004 [25:18]
Johannes Pramsohler (baroque violin), Jadran Duncumb (baroque lute)
rec. 2015/16, Gustav-Mahler-Saal, Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Toblach, Italy
AUDAX ADX13706 [77:32]
This fascinating release brings together two composers who undoubtedly knew of each other before they actually met. Sylvius Leopold Weiss was one of the most renowned, technically accomplished lutenists and prolific composers of lute music of his day. He was court lutenist at Dresden, where Bach most probably got to know of him. In the field of improvisation, the two men maintained a healthy rivalry, as the German composer, writer and music critic Johann Friedrich Reichardt bore witness: "Anyone who knows how difficult it is to play harmonic modulations and good counterpoint on the lute will be surprised and full of disbelief to hear from eyewitnesses that Weiss, the great lutenist, challenged J. S. Bach, the great harpsichordist and organist, at playing fantasies and fugues." Weiss was a friend of Johann Sebastian Bach's eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, who was most likely instrumental in the two men meeting. When in 1739 Weiss and his friend stayed in Leipzig for a month, they made frequent visits to the Bach household where, it is reported, "something extra fine in the way of music" took place.
The centrepiece of this recording is the magnificent Suite in A Major for violin and obbligato lute, BWV 1025, a collaboration between both composers. In the 1990s, information came to light on its origins, which identified it as Bach's arrangement of one of Weiss's lute sonatas. The booklet essay, written by the two performer, details the convoluted evolution of this curious work. It is too complicated to go into here. The work is more familiar in its dubious guise as the Suite for violin and harpsichord in A major BWV 1025. It is cast in seven movements. Only the opening Fantasia seems to display strong Bachian characteristics. Pramsohler's ornamentation is elaborate, idiomatic, tasteful yet in no way overdone. Duncumb's animated and crisply articulated lute accompaniment in the Courrante is the perfect foil for the violin's light-hearted theme. The Entrée and Sarabande are more conversational in tone, whilst the final sprightly Allegro calls time.
The other two works present each of the instrumentalists in a solo role. Although he did not have Bach’s melodic inventiveness, Weiss summoned his vast technical arsenal to the service of producing superbly crafted music for the instrument. Whilst I know nothing about lute playing, I would imagine that despite its complex technical challenges his music is a great source of joy to the performer. Duncumb steps up to the mark admirably with playing of impressive aplomb and intelligent musicianship.
Pramsohler delivers a nicely paced reading of the more familiar D minor Partita for solo violin by Bach. Intonation is pristine throughout. I would single out the Sarabande for the exquisite phrasing and expression he brings to it. The Giga is brisk and crisply articulated. The Ciaccona, which ends the disc, has nobility and grandeur.
This is a well-planned disc by two performers at the top of their game. Well-recorded, it is reinforced by immaculate ensemble and balance. I thoroughly enjoyed it.