Baroque Grandeur


I have just fallen in love with Silvius Leopold Weiss. I'm afraid I've missed the boat -- he died in 1750 -- but I have as consolation David Russell's exquisite guitar version of Weiss' Suite No. XIV. Just released on the virtuoso's new CD, The Grandeur Of The Baroque, Weiss' six-movement suite for lute is the most delicate of the works Russell performs.

Russell's elegant touch, intentionally lighter than on the recital's other works by J.S. Bach, G.F Handel, and F. Couperin, perfectly communicates the magic of Weiss' opening Allemande. The Courante movement is remarkably fluid, the Angloise simply wonderful. "I can't get enough of this," I scribbled in my notes as each of the suite's six dance movements radiated grace and joy. Weiss' ability to find such beauty within established courtly forms is nothing short of a miracle.

Like Weiss, both Handel and Couperin were in the employ of nobility at the time they composed the pieces that Russell has transcribed for guitar. Handel composed his suites for harpsichord while working James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon; some may have been composed especially for his student Anne, oldest daughter of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The music of the Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432, as you might expect, is the epitome of courtly elegance. Even if its Gigue is derived from an English folk dance, it's a dance that, in Handel's hand, was fit for a king, or at least an earl as deserving as you and me.