Right off the bat, when surveying the BIS disc Weiss Sonatas Played on the Unique 1590 Sixtus Rauwolf Lute, one wonders what took Jakob Lindberg so long to get around to recording Sylvius Leopold Weiss? After all, Weiss was regarded as the uncontested king of lutenists in his day, and his work as a composer represents the last major stage of forward development in lute repertoire before the instrument fell into disuse. Lindberg is one of the most stable and respected purveyors of lute music of our own time, his BIS releases stretching back into the mid-'80s. Certainly, Weiss and Lindberg would seem a combination readymade for a truly fulfilling musical experience, right?
Yes, but Weiss' name above the title doesn't necessary translate into automatic success from a commercial standpoint -- even some listeners who fancy lute music itself aren't necessarily as familiar with his work as say, that of John Dowland, or for that matter Weiss' friend Johann Sebastian Bach. The "thrust" behind this collection is not the composer but the instrument, one of four surviving instruments made by luthier Sixtus Rauwolf in 1590 and put into optimum playing condition by a team of expert instrument restorers. This lute has a beautiful, creamy tone in the treble and a generous, ringing bottom almost worthy of a theorbo. It is certainly an instrument well suited to the music of Weiss, although some of these pieces needed a slight amount of editing to convert the 13-course sources in order to fit on the 11 courses of the Rauwolf.
The selection of pieces is very well chosen, including the Sonata in A minor "L'Infidèle" and the remarkable Ciaccona in E flat, works that demonstrate Weiss' feelings about French and Italian practice, respectively. Weiss' music is like that of J.S. Bach in that it encompasses the regional influences within the greater of Europe of his day, but attempts to forge a single strand from them. Lindberg plays all of this music beautifully, the recording is warm and very close, yet BIS has wisely not attempted to tamper with the moderately quiet output of this lute by jacking it up in the mix; it is a very pleasing and natural recording. Weiss Sonatas Played on the Unique 1590 Sixtus Rauwolf Lute is a triumph to all concerned and should appeal to an audience outside the tiny community of lute nuts out there. If you're looking for something that is musically substantive to concentrate or chill out to, Weiss Sonatas Played on the Unique 1590 Sixtus Rauwolf Lute would be a wonderful choice.