Baroque Lute - Nigel North - Gramophone

If you aren't a 'lute person' and may have wondered why so much fuss is made of Weiss, a freind and almost exact contemporary of Bach, I urge you to make a beeline for this record. The six-movement Sonata L'infidele (Turkish music was among the fashionable exotica of the time) and the Tombeau sur la mort de M. Compte de Logy (as poignant an elegy as you will find in all baroque music are amongst the finest of Weiss's works, and though written as separate pieces the other three items keep no less convincing company than those of Bach's BWV998.

Weiss, who was famed as an extemporizer, may be signalling his approval from above if he can hear the controlled quasi-improvisational way in which North approaches his music, elegantly in style and with repeats embellished imaginatively and in impeccable taste...

The Concerto of Vivaldi is a second-generation arrangement, by North out of Bach; the tempos of all three movements are rather slower than a harpsichordist would choose, but they are apt for the lute and the result is both succesful and enjoyable. North has always been a clean and nimble technician whose expressivity, once minimal, has been growing for some time; here it enters a new dimension, marked by his enhancing use of vibrato, and a few well-chosen variations of tone-colour. In its totality - technical, stylistic and emotional - this is simply the best recording of lute music I have had the pleasure of hearing, and with it the lute comes, in a sense, of age: a maker of fine music that can be listened to purely for what it is.

01 February 1992