Desperate Doors

Christopher Wilke 13 course lute
J. S. Bach, Falckenhagen, Weiss
Barcode: 6 90474 54098 2

Christopher Wilke’s CD begins with variations by Adam Falckenhagen on the German chorale “Wer nur den lieben Gott”. The melody begins with simple chords, but it is soon decorated with fast flourishes. There follow passages of broken chords in quavers, semiquavers, triplets, sextuplets, and the piece ends with a dramatic triple suspension. This is the florid world of galanterie, where simple musical ideas are subsumed in excessive decoration.

Next comes J. S. Bach’s Lute Suite BWV995. In the Präludium Wilke adds much ornamentation, and in the Presto he keeps the semiquaver movement going with notes séparées  and the addition of appoggiaturas from above and below. His speed is a modest 152, about the same as Axel Wolf, slower than Andreas Martin and Joachim Held at about 166, and faster than Peter Croton at about 142. A restful Allemande with neatly played ornamentation has Wilke’s own tasteful doubles for the repeats. The Courante is played with distinctly uneven quavers and a few lightly strummed chords. The slowly-played Sarabande is enhanced by Wilke’s doubles for the repeats. In Gavotte 1 there are a few um-chings and a demisemiquaver flourish for the repeat; he takes a steady speed, so that Gavotte 2 has the same pulse with quaver triplets; extra notes are added to the return of Gavotte 1. The Gigue could be crisper if he didn’t clip some of the dotted quavers, but all in all I do like the way he puts his own gloss on this oft-played suite.

There follow Falkenhagen’s extravagant variations on “Nun danket alle Gott”, the well-known hymn “Now thank we all our God”. Ponderous bass notes underpin the melody first with rich chords, and then with variations which become more and more elaborate, until the effect is almost reminiscent of flamenco guitar. It is curious stuff, and certainly takes us a long way from the simplicity of the original Protestant hymn.

The rest of the CD is devoted to music by Silvius Leopold Weiss based on “L’Amant Malheureux”, an allemande by the 17th-century French lutenist, Jacques Gallot. From the Rohrau manuscript is Gallot’s original composition together with a double by Weiss, a Courante, a Fantaisie, and a Gigue variation on “L’Amant Malheureux”. There is an extraordinary wealth of musical ideas here, and the music requires considerable virtuosity from Wilke. From the Paris manuscript (Pn Res Vmc Ms 61) are pieces in G minor: variations by Weiss on “L’Amant Malheureux”, a Courante, and a Gavotte. Finally, from the London manuscript (Lbl Add. Ms 30387), another variation by Weiss on Gallot’s allemande. In his liner notes Wilke suggests that Gallot’s piece must have been important for Weiss, for him to have used it so much as a basis for his own compositions. Wilke confesses that Weiss’s gloss on Gallot helped him through a difficult time in his own life.

Stewart McCoy