The New York Times
June 18, 2000
Bernard D. Sherman
WEISS: Lute Works.
Hopkinson Smith, lutenist. Astrée
Auvidis 8620, 8718; two CD's.
Sylvius Leopold Weiss probably
did not worry much about posterity;
few 18th-century musicians did. And
posterity duly ignored Weiss, partly
because there was nothing suitable
on which to play his music. It was tailored for the Baroque lute, a sonorous but difficult instrument that
largely disappeared within a generation of his death.
Weiss was a star performer in his
day, but even then his music was
hard to find, by his own choice. He
published only one movement in his
lifetime. "When you keep a piece
only for yourself," he explained, "it
always stays nice and new." But that
attitude, a common one among itinerant Baroque virtuosos, did not stop
Weiss and his students from writing
down hundreds of his pieces. Most of
them are still unpublished, although
a complete edition is in process.
That edition is timely. Today we
have something suitable on which to
play Weiss, thanks to the modern revival of the Baroque lute. And the
Weiss record catalog continues to
Two new releases come from a notable figure in the Baroque lute revival, Hopkinson Smith. Mr. Smith's
mastery is reason enough to listen;
he extracts a beautiful sound from
his lute and plays it with an improvisatory flair and a wealth of nuance.
Just as important, the music is rich
and wide-ranging. It is hard to imagine a more attractive introduction to
Of the two discs, "Pièces de Luth"
(8718) offers more music. Yet "Partitas Pour Luth" (8620) is perhaps
even more appealing. A high point is
the G major Partita, whose eight
movements include an impressive
Toccata and Fugue. Such music
should keep posterity from forgetting Weiss any time soon.
BERNARD D. SHERMAN