The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 7, 2003


Concert Review: Wonderful lute and guitar concert at Union Hall

In a Chamber Music by Candlelight concert at Union Hall last Thursday night California-based John Schneiderman gave a virtuoso performance on the lute and seven-string guitar. The program consisted of lute sonatas by Silvius Leopold Weiss and Adam Falckenhagen, and a set of guitar pieces by Napoléon Coste.

These composers were probably as unfamiliar to members of the audience as they were to us. An additional pleasure of these concerts, presented by the Cambridge Society for Early Music (CSEM), is hearing the music of "unfamiliar" composers who were influential and considered "great" in their day.

Silvius Leopold Weiss (ca. 1687-1750) left the largest body of solo works for the lute ever written for the instrument, nearly 600 pieces. He was to the "plucked string" what J. S. Bach was to the keyboard world, said Schneiderman during his WGBH radio performance, the morning after the concert.

Weiss' Sonatas in D Minor and F Major were collections of dances as found in suites of other European composers of the time. Included were a prelude, allemande, courante, bourée, minuets, a slow sarabande, and so forth. In each sonata all of the dances were written in the same key, so the lute player did not have to retune the strings to another key after each dance piece. Lutes have undergone many changes in configuration and numbers of strings over the course of time. The particular baroque lute used in this concert had thirteen "courses" of strings, eleven of which were double strings.

Adam Falckenhagen (1697-1761) was a student of Weiss. According to the New Grove Dictionary of Music, Falckenhagen was one of the last significant composers for the lute. His Sonata #1 in F Major was melodious, rhythmic, and very demanding of the performer. Schneiderman played with both sensitivity and energy, in addition to phenomenal technical competence.

After the intermission, the concert shifted from Baroque to 19th century Romantic as the soloist performed the seven-string guitar works of Napoléon Coste (1806-1883). The seven-string guitar is more sonorous than the lute and appropriate for the more Romantic style pieces. The titles indicate the musical impressions of a valley, evenings in a district of Paris, and the Zuiderzee in Holland. The pieces were complex and lovely.

In response to the enthusiastic audience the performer offered two encores. One of them, an étude (study), was an example of paper being scarce and expensive for the composer. Coste wrote this little study on the bottom of the manuscript paper of another piece. Schneiderman finished his evening's performance with flair, starting the piece seated, and ending as he played while walking off the stage.

The audience was attentive and enthusiastic. We in Carlisle are lucky that Union Hall is an intimate space for listening to the quiet sounds of the baroque lute, for Schneiderman's performance was exceptionally artistic and virtuosic.

If you appreciate fine early music, CSEM brings world-class performers to Carlisle three times each year. The next concert, featuring choral works, will be at St. Irene's Church on March 20.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito