Ich ruf zu dir

Werke für Laute von Silvius Leopold Weiss, Johann Sebastian Bach, David Kellner
Bernhard Hofstötter
VKJK 1606

The CD begins with the Ciacona in G minor by Silvius Leopold Weiss (SW14.6) from the Weiss London manuscript (GB-Lbl. Add. MS 30387). Hofstötter is aware that the piece is listed in the Sämtliche Werke  as a duet perhaps to accompany a flute or violin, but instead he chooses to play it as a solo. Although it sounds very nice, I find it unconvincing as a solo; sections with just chords alternate with sections with melodies at a higher pitch, implying that two instruments are taking it in turns to carry the melody. However, he plays with clean, well-arched phrases, and creates a suitable feeling of grandeur, although there is rather a lot of echo in the overall sound, as if the music were recorded in a very resonant room.

There follow two of Hofstötter’s own arrangements for 13-course lute. The first is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite no. 2 (BWV 1008). In the Prélude he adds extra bass notes sparingly, just enough to underpin the harmonic movement. At bar 48, after a long passage of continuous semiquavers and a repeated dominant pedal in the bass, there is a dramatic pause on a third inversion chord of the dominant with lots of decoration, then silence before carrying on. The movement ends with five bars of improvised arpeggiated chords. More bass notes are added to the Allemande to clarify the harmony, creating a texture reminiscent of Bach’s lute music. The bright semiquavers of the Courante flow beautifully with a lightness and pleasing clarity of tone. The added bass notes add sonority to a well-poised Sarabande, and after two brisk Minuets, the Suite ends with a moderately paced Gigue. The second of Hofstötter’s lute arrangements is his intabulation of Bach’s chorale prelude, “Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ” [“I call to You, Lord Jesus Christ”] (BWV 639). There are three voices, which fit well on the lute. The slow-moving chorale melody in crotchets is the highest voice; the bass moves in quavers, and the inner voice in semiquavers. Hofstötter has transposed the music down a minor third from F minor to D minor, and chooses a slow speed which helps let the music sing. It is an exquisite piece of music, which actually sent shivers down my spine.

The Sonata in G minor (SW 25) begins with an Allemande marked Andante. It explores the higher reaches of the lute and is highly ornamented. On the repeats Hofstötter adds even more decoration of his own, which I find imaginative and stylish. The fifth movement is called “La Babileuse en Menuet” in the London manuscript, and it paints a picture of a woman who just can’t stop talking. Hofstötter’s Babileuse is a lively character, and although she keeps repeating herself, she does have some nice things to say. The CD finishes with a Chaconne in A by David Kellner. There are some impressive variations over the descending ground bass requiring some nifty playing from Hofstötter. Towards the end there is some extraordinary chromaticism.

Stewart McCoy