Nigel North

Cantabile: Music for Lute by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Vol. 2

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The second in a pair of albums devoted to the music of German lutenist and composer Sylvius Leopold Weiss bears as its title a quality for which Weiss was said to have been admired. There's nothing specifically cantabile, or songlike, about these particular pieces, which are suites of French dances typical of much of the instrumental music of the time. That said, veteran British lutenist Nigel North brings out a certain effortless quality in Weiss' music, finding the relaxed tunefulness in contrapuntally complex music written for a 13-course lute. Weiss' admirers included J.S. Bach, and some of the music on this release shows him at his most Bachian: check out the Bourée of the Lute Sonata in A major (track 11). But there are also many virtuoso touches not present in Bach's slender set of lute pieces (or in the numerous arrangements of his music for lute), and North plays with total command in these. North, who teaches at the University of Indiana, has recorded with a variety of groups and for several different labels; he's a journeyman player who perhaps hasn't gotten the recognition he should. Here he is well served by the engineers of Britain's small BGS (British Guitar Society) label, working in St. Andrew's church in the town of Toddington, Gloucestershire; they impart enough physicality to his playing that the music doesn't sound like a mechanical simulacrum, but there is no fetishization of instrument noises that Weiss' well-upholstered patrons would never have heard. A superior lute release, and one that really catches the essence of this difficult German composer.

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