NEWS : Lute melancholy from Austria

Review of the CD "Austria 1676"  : Kare Eskola, Svenska YLE - Finnish Broadcasting Company


Kare Eskola | 13.9.2012 
Svenska YLE - Finnish Broadcasting Company
"English lute music from the early baroque era is well known for its soul soothing melancholy. 
However, the soul is always in need of new and varied solace; so I am happy to have found that melancholy lute music was also composed in Austria.
Until now, Lauffensteiner and Weichenberger, lute masters of the Austrian school, have been lurking in the shadows of music history, but we can be truly grateful to lutenist Miguel Yisrael, for having dragged them out of obscurity to focus on them in his new recording. It was certainly well worth the effort.
Of course the Austrian lute style of the early 18th century is very different from that favored by Dowland and company in 17th century England. The Austrian lutenists combined the sophisticated but complex French style brisée with the melody driven German classism and its tendency too absolute music. 
Beyond all else, they still give importance to the essentially intimate  character of the lute. Lauffensteiner and Weichenberger organized their lute pieces into  formally free partitas. There is still a trace of some of the characteristics of the earlier dance forms but merely surviving through the tempo markings, otherwise the style seems to have been freed from representational preoccupation close to the "absolute music” of the Classical style.
Even the mood of the fast dance pieces is meditative and melancholic.  However, compared to Dowland, this particular melancholy seems less personal and overwhelming, and as such may be suitable for soothing a different state of mind. Perhaps this music can be played as a cure for grey long term anxiety, while Dowland is better saved for pitch black but temporary anguish. 
Miguel Yisrael has all the musical qualities to act as the medium for curing the soul. He has patiently teased out and dwelt in the mental states of these court lutenists and manages to bring this to us through the densest textures and most refined grace notes, unassumingly. Most important, however, is that under the flawless music, almost on the surface, a deeply feeling human being can be heard.
This mood has been superbly captured by the sound engineers: the sound of the lute has room to resonate, but we can still distinguish the most delicate touch on the strings, and in the background a living musician is breathing."

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