Silvius Leopold Weiss :The London Manuscript Volumes 1 and 2:arranged for guitar by Michel Cardin
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Silvius Leopold Weiss (Guitar arrangement by Michel Cardin)
Doberman – Yppan: (Vol 1 - 139 pages: Vol 2 - 146 pages)
Weiss was the most important performer and composer for the 13 course Baroque Lute. German – born and a friend of JS Bach, he played his instrument at a time when it was reaching the end of its long life, and soon to be overtaken in popularity by the keyboard, until the 20th Century, when it made a comeback that has never gone away.
Michel Cardin first came to my attention several decades ago, when as a Baroque Lutenist, he started recording the complete London Manuscript (317 pages of tablature of a total of 237 pieces, with 26 full solo sonatas, many assorted single works, 5 duos, and 3 concerti for 4 lute and transverse flute). Eventually he produced 12 CDs of the entire volume, which was the first time anyone had actually done so.
Before that the guitarist interested in that area of the repertoire could find a few works arranged for the guitar by a number of musicians, but here in this set of volumes ( the complete number is 5 volumes) , we get the whole manuscript, arranged by Cardin himself in as scholarly and musical a fashion as anyone could imagine. Being a player of the original instrument too has no doubt helped him in multiple ways and given him an insight that few if any of the other arrangers in times gone by, would have had.
Both volumes have the same huge 19 page Introduction, 11 English and 8 French language) that tells you in great detail every facet of the story and Cardin’s decisions and how they were made, because as many of you might realize unlike the Renaissance Lute, which transfers relatively well to the guitar, the 13 course Baroque Lute is a whole different story. So how Cardin has actually made the decisions he did make, is fascinating reading in itself.
Volume 1 has 9 full Sonatas, and Volume 2 has 8, and range from 6 to 9 movements. So every Sonata is a huge undertaking in itself, and amounts to a significant amount of playing time, and so the importance of these volumes cannot be undervalued. The works themselves are stunning in their depth, variety, and quality of musical invention, and as guitar works, they vary from intermediate to advanced in difficulty.
Of course every player interested in this wonderful repertoire, should take the time to hear it played on its original instrument, because the 13 course Baroque Lute has a sound quite different from the Renaissance Lute, and if you haven’t ever heard one played, you are in for a big surprise. That said, the next best thing is to study these volumes, because the music within them is exceptional, and the only reasons that S.L.Weiss is not as revered as JS Bach, in my opinion, is that he chose to write it for an instrument that fell into disuse, until brought back in the 20th Century. Marvellous volumes!