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If you didn’t know that Hasse wrote music for the lute, don’t be hard on yourself. I didn’t either; but in any case it turns out that the two sonatas recorded here – one of them for the first time – were originally for keyboard and transcribed for lute by an unknown 18th-century hand. They thus make busy work at times for the fingers of Jadran Duncumb, but he is well on top of things – indeed, in the second movement of the A major Sonata he restores some of the original’s notes that the arranger left out. Both works are absolutely in the fashionable galant style of the mid-18th century with its clear-cut harmonies and polite, singable melodies that like to escape into triplets. It’s not the kind of music you would associate with the lute but it is certainly a pleasant discovery. With the lutenist Weiss we are on more familiar – indeed central – Baroque lute territory. This is music with the grandeur and harmonic expansiveness of Bach but with its idiomatically rendered textures more svelte and easy on the ear than the often rather keyboardy lute compositions we have from Bach. But this is good music in its own right, too, well deserving of greater currency; Duncumb calls the D minor Suite a ‘towering monument of the lute repertoire’ and, hearing him play it with such confidence and freedom, it is hard to disagree – just listen to the assurance and exuberance of the final Allegro. The Passacaglia that ends the disc, too, is one whose cumulative power draws you in just as it should.
All of these pieces Duncumb presents with clean but deep and singing tone, faultless balancing of voices, sound architectural sense and delicate but nicely judged dynamic shading. Only some persistent extraneous noise on the recording – I can’t tell whether from Duncumb’s fingerboard or his breathing – detracts slightly from the pleasure. This is his first solo disc and already I’m looking forward to the second.
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