The German Baroque: Sylvius Leopold Weiss

New for the site are theme weeks. I’ll be posting articles, links, and videos based on the theme. There will still be other posts such as lessons etc, but the theme will add a narrative to the week.

To start us off I’ve chosen The German Baroque (click to see all posts in this theme). This is an era when the lute was still revered but certainly in decline as the keyboard continued to grow and dominate the period. However, lutenists such as Sylvius Leopold Weiss (12 October 1687 – 16 October 1750), were very active soloists and still found great amounts of work in orchestra and opera pits playing continuo either on lute or theorbo. In fact, Weiss was one of the highest paid court musicians in Dresden which tells us of his respect and demand.

Weiss was very prolific (over 600 works) and considered the greatest lutenist of his day. He met with J.S. Bach on occasion and they would have competitions improvising fugues of all things, Weiss on lute and Bach on organ! However, Weiss’s style was quite different than the older-fashioned style of Bach as he started to embrace some qualities of the galant style. Regardless of how you consider his style, it has a smooth flow and relaxed feel but still retains much of the counterpoint we all love from the Baroque. I love it!

I’ve chosen my favorite lute player for Weiss: Robert Barto. Check out his magnificent recordings of Weiss on Naxos

Prelude in G Major by Weiss Performed by Robert Barto

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Presto in A Major by Weiss performed live by Robert Barto

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