This "delightful lute-pleasure" (the title comes from a publication by Esaias Reusner, one of the composers represented here) offered on this album may be most delightful for lutenists and their friends, but it has charms for general listeners as well. It consists of German lute music from the late seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, in other words, from one or two generations before the genius of the German lute tradition, Sylvius Leopold Weiss. The music here has neither the Bachian contrasts of virtuosity and polyphonic intensity found in Weiss, nor the florid decoration of the French suites on which most of these pieces were modeled. Virtuoso artistry is demanded by the passacaglia arrangements that open and close the program, one from an ensemble sonata by Muffat, and the other of a Biber violin sonata -- and virtuosity is provided in abundance by lutenist Joachim Held, a remarkably clear and arresting player. The suites of French dances that make up the bulk of the program are by composers whose names will be little known to most listeners: Reusner, Johann Losy, Wolff Jacob Lauffensteiner, and perhaps Johann Jacob Weiss, father of Sylvius Leopold. The music might best be described as pleasant; it does not dazzle with complex figuration, inclining instead toward a more melodic treatment of the lute. The sound engineering does not really support Held's fine performances. The lute, recorded in a church (was that a common venue for lute performances?), is given a big, boomy sound that is at odds with the music's more intimate nature, and birdsong filters into the building periodically -- appropriate for spring, perhaps.
Erfreuliche Lautenlust Review
by James Manheim