The Moscow `Weiss' Manuscript

m. i. Glinka state central museum of musical culture, ms 282/8
Transcribed and edited by tim crawford

Arranged for guitar by Alan Rinehart

64 pp., $29.95, Presser Order number 494-02145 (LUTE-1b)


The music of the great lutenist Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), the exact contemporary and friend of J.S. Bach, is at last becoming increasingly well known through recordings. Most of the music that has been available in print, however, comes from one of the two principal sources, a manuscript of c1717-1725 now in the British Library in London. That manuscript has been edited in the 'Complete Works' edition of Weiss's music, and the six manuscript volumes in the Sächsisches Landesbibliothek, Dresden, are forthcoming in the same series. But there are a number of other, less well-known manuscripts of great importance which remain virtually untapped sources of this marvelous music. The present MS, unknown in the West until 1963, was published in 1976 in an eccentric edition which is now out of print. Important recent research on the MS shows that it could not have been compiled during Weiss's lifetime, nor in his home city of Dresden, but at least a decade after his death and in Russia. The present edition aims to put the music in that context, and to explain some of its unusual features. An attempt has been made to distinguish between music that is definitely by Weiss, and music that might not be. Reaching such conclusions is necessarily a subjective matter, and the editor acknowledges that there may be those who will remain convinced that every note in the MS was composed by Weiss himself. It is to be hoped that the edition remains as useful to them as to those who accept his arguments. In any case, this is an exceptional collection of excellent lute music, and some of the pieces are among Weiss's finest work. The edition is presented in three separate formats: a photographic reproduction; a transcription into staff notation (LUTE-1a); a guitar arrangement (LUTE-1 — the present edition). In this volume, the music of the Moscow Weiss manuscript, as transcribed by Tim Crawford in the companion volume, is arranged for the guitar by Alan Rinehart. In addition to the set of scales in all the keys following no. 38, only one piece has been omitted, the identical repetition of the prelude No. 1 before No. 27 (another prelude in the same key). Two pieces (nos. 39 and 40) have been moved earlier in the sequence to avoid breaking up a partita whose movements were carefully numbered by the scribe. These guitar arrangements were made from the transcriptions, with reference to the tablature as needed, and therefore incorporate the editorial changes made therein. No attempt has been made to report every change here, however, and interested readers are referred to the transcription volume, where they are reported as footnotes to the musical text.

For a full explanation and description of the various issues in transcribing this manuscript, readers are urged to refer to Tim Crawford's Preface to the facsimile and transcription fascicle of this volume (Lute-1a). The entire text is also available on line at http://www.guitarandluteissues.com/tim/weismain.htm.

Press review:

“. . . As one would expect, the manuscript contains items which are duplicated in other more established sources, but not that many. Of the 48 items presented here, only five appear in the Dresden source. And even these contain some notable variants. The otherwise familiar Allegro from Le Fameoux Corsaire contains a splendid example of what Crawford describes as the 'Ukrainian' augmented second a subtle touch of 'Easternisation' which is absent from the Dresden and London versions. Elsewhere, there is much to discover. The Presto in B flat major is a veritable Weiss blockbuster . . . The same is true of the wonderfully fluid D major Courante which, like the Presto, has some how become permanently separated from its stable mates. There are even some jewels to be found amongst the 'bogus' compositions wrongly attributed to Weiss. The Haydnesque Menuet, for example, is a charming specimen of what lutenists must have been playing immediately before their instrument went into two centuries of hibernation.

Finally, a word of recognition for Alan Rinehart, who has made an excellent job of the guitar arrangements contained in the supplementary volume. No guitarist could ever hope to replicate the unique voice of the baroque lute, but Rinehart has successfully captured the essence of this most aristocratic of fretted instruments. The intricate campanella fingerings add several grades to the technical requirement, but it's well worth the man-hours needed to puzzle them out. A ground-breaking publication which no serious guitarist or lutenist should be without." Paul Fowles, Classical Guitar.


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