Andrew Maginley

The Baroque Lute

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Andrew Maginley is an American lutenist, one of several who moved to Germany in order to pursue their art. Here he offers a program of three eighteenth century pieces that have plenty to say to one another. Opening the disc is Maginley's own lute transcription of Bach's Suite No. 1 for solo cello, which he claims is both historically and artistically justifiable and even desirable. That may or may not be so -- the lute fills in some of the spaces whose emptiness makes Bach's solo pieces so fascinating. But it is certainly interesting to hear Bach's music juxtaposed with that of Sylvius Leopold Weiss, the greatest German lute virtuoso of the era. The two composers apparently knew and admired each other, and although Maginley's booklet draws a stylistic contrast between the two, Weiss' music has much in common with Bach's. Both infuse the dances of the French suite with complex harmonies and contrapuntal procedures, and putting music by the two composers together exposes the listener to one of the very few figures who actually followed Bach along some of his lonely musical roads. Maginley's style is unusual and attractive. Where other lutenists strive for a melancholy restraint that makes Bach sound like Dowland, or turn the lute into a big, booming thing, Maginley's playing is meditative -- thoughtful without being intellectual. Especially in the Weiss Sonata No. 36 in D minor he allows slight freedom to creep into his tempi, with an ingratiating effect. The final work by the little-known Adam Falckenhagen, a flashy, Vivaldian piece, offers an upbeat conclusion and allows Maginley to show his chops. This album is very nicely recorded. It runs counter to the current trend of miking the lute so close up that every arm motion of the performer sounds like a breeze blowing in the window, and its more distant, sounds-echoing-down-castle-halls sound environment fits perfectly with Maginley's artistic aims. A nice counterpart and contrast to Yasunori Imamura's grand recordings of Weiss, which are very different and more aggressive in their overall effect.

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