It is worth listening to these colossi of the Baroque repertoire side-by-side, to discover that Weiss‘s music results from the instrumental characteristics of the lute and magnifies its potential, while Bach’s music compels the performer to shape an idiom that, thanks to a sort of intellectual virtuosity, stretches the characteristics of the instrument itself.
Evangelina Mascardi devoted them two CDs, warmly received by the international critic and awarded with Diapason Découverte, Pizzicato Supersonic and 5 Stars Goldberg.
A key programme, demanding but admirably performed.

Merian, Dresden1 in 1650

 

         It is not unusual for the music of Sylvius Leopold Weiss 1687 -1750, a brilliant lute virtuoso and renowned musician in the first half of the XVIII century, to be compared nowadays to that of Johann Sebastian Bach. Nor is it so surprising. Possibly since their birth and death dates almost coincide? Or perhaps because we want to support a less known composer alongside someone who is unanimously regarded as a genius?
I don't know ...
Nevertheless, reviewing the works of these colossi of the Baroque repertoire, I find opposites more than convergences and that’s why I believe it is worth listening to them side-by-side. Especially given that Weiss‘s music results from the instrumental characteristics of the lute and magnifies its potential,while Bach’s music compels the performer to shape an idiom that, thanks to a sort of intellectual virtuosity, stretches the characteristics of the instrument itself.

In the first three decades of the XVIII century the lute was still extremely fashionable at the European Courts and aristocratic milieux. Weiss was in fact the more generously paid instrumentalist at the Hofkapelle in Dresden, a place where every musician of the time would have been happy to be employed. This one fact stresses how prominent his position was, and how great was the esteem he enjoyed among his contemporaries. Furthermore, his work shows in every line his instrumental mastery, and continuously surprises the player as well as the listener with his subtle use of the multiform resources of the lute. When exploring his music today, we are still able to feel directly what the lute represented to him.

There is no doubt that Bach come across more than once lute and lute players. Some of his compositions such as the Cantata BWV 198 Trauers Ode make use of the instrument. Nonetheless, it is also evident that Bach didn’t reserve any prominent role for the lute in his work.
Luckily, Johann Christian Weyrauch 1694 -1771, a student of Bach and lute player himself, transcribed for his instrument, according to a common contemporary practice, some works of his teacher, bequeathing to posterity the tablatures of the Sonate BWV 997 limited to Fantasia, Sarabande and Jig, BWV 995 and of the Fugue BWV 1000.

It may reasonably be supposed that without these tablatures and few more accidents occuring during the cataloguing of the complete work of Bach, nobody would have thought to perform Bach music on lute, so depriving lute players, and therefore guitarists, of the "Great Repertoire".

Luckily the story took a different path, and today, in contrast to how Weiss teaches me about the instrument through his music, with Bach I have to rediscover, almost imagine a lute that Bach didn't perhaps ever know but that I must still create to allow my strings to reach the heights of his musical vision.

Evangelina Mascardi, December 2015

 


Bach - Weiss, opposite but parallel

03 Evangelina Mascardi baroque lute filJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Preludio BWV 846, Menuet BWV Anhang 132, Gavotte I-II BWV 1068

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750)
Sonata in A minor
Prélude, Allemande-andante, Courante, Bourrée,
Sarabande-andante, Menuet, Presto

Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite BWV 1006a
Prélude, Loure, Gavotte en Rondeau
Menuett I - Menuett II, Bourrée, Gigue

Evangelina Mascardi - baroque lute
Cezar Mateus, New Jersey, 1999

photo © Victor Sokolowicz

 

Bach Weiss copertina webref. CD ORF Alte Musik 2003 and 2009

 

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