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S.L.Weiss  :  transcribed for guitar by Nicholas Dewfield : Sonata 19 : Bergmann

S.L.Weiss, transcribed for guitar by Nicholas Dewfield

Bergmann Edition : 24 pages


Silvius Leopold Weiss was the absolute master of the 13 course Baroque Lute. He wrote hundreds of works for it, which are spread all over the globe in various collections, but over the years recordings on the original instrument have been produced, and also transcriptions for guitar have too, of which there are many of these available.No19 comes from the collection known as The London Manuscript, which is 26 full sonatas, many single works and even 5 pieces for flute and lute.  

The most important fact to state here is that Weiss’ lute music , in my humble opinion , rivals the work of the great JS Bach for much of the time, for their astonishing complexity and musical harmonies make for much better music than many of Bach’s contemporaries, whatever they are writing their music for. However the trouble with Baroque Lute music is that firstly the tuning is absolutely nothing like our guitar, as it is to all intents and purposes a Dm arpeggio from the first string, an F a semitone above our 1st string E, then downwards D, A, F. D. A. until one reaches the final 7 courses than go down in a scale fashion, and can be tuned to whatever key you are playing in. Therefore the bottom of the lute is a full octave lower than the guitar and the actual fingerings on the top six strings are utterly different from the guitar and therefore, unlike Renaissance Lute music, cannot be transferred to the guitar without some considerable changes in the fingerings. Therefore I have seen many books of guitar transcriptions of Weiss than often simply don’t work very well. Indeed Dewfield fully admits how much arranging he has had to do in the notes at the back of the volume, with the lowest octave basses having sometimes to be raised up, and occasionally keys changed completely to make the music itself and the fingerings much more usable.

That said, the music itself is superb, and the transcription of Dewfield very good indeed, although I always say that one should, whenever possible, hear these marvelous works played on the original instrument , as the guitar really cannot cope with the depth of sound that a Baroque Lute has. The work is in seven movements, a Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Bourree, Sarabande, Menuet, and a final Gigue, all of which require a very good player indeed to do them full justice, but all of which are simply beautiful pieces .So I can heartily recommend this lovely volume as one definitely worth your time and patience!


Chris Dumigan

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