Weiss Sämtliche Werke

Tim Crawford is currently the editor of the Sämtliche Werke of the great German lutenist, Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), an exact contemporary and friend of J.S. Bach. Weiss was probably the greatest lutenist of all time, ranking with Francesco da Milano and John Dowland, the two outstanding figures of the Renaissance lute. He has left over 750 pieces of music, ranging from light-weight galanterien to large-scale concerto movements, all for the lute, and all written in tablature.

These pieces are usually arranged into suites or 'Suonaten' (as Weiss seems to have called them) which are frequently of great length: most of Weiss's 70 or so complete sonatas last over 20 minutes in performance (with repeats). They are found in a large number of 18th-century manuscripts located in libraries all over the world, of which the most important are London's British Library and Dresden's Sächsiches Landesbibliothek.

A paper by Tim Crawford on the relationships between these two manuscripts and the involvement of the composer in their compilation, which was read at the S.L. Weiss Congress in Freiburg in September 1992, can be read here.

Dr Douglas Alton Smith, whose thesis is a basic resource for modern Weiss research, founded the S.L. Weiss Sämtliche Werke in the early 1980s. From its inception, the edition has been sponsored by the German musicological institute, Das Erbe deutscher Musik, whose successive directors Prof Georg von Dadelsen and Prof Thomas Kohlhase have been highly supportive. Further support, in the form of research grants, has been forthcoming from the Alexander Humbolt Stiftung, the Leverhulme Trust, and King's College London.

Because of the great difficulty, for various reasons, of establishing a chronology of Weiss's output, it was decided to publish the edition ordered by source. So the first 4 volumes comprised facsimile (vols 1 & 2) and staff-notation (vols 3 & 4) editions of the partially-autograph London manuscript (probably compiled in Prague between 1717 and c1725), which contains 32 complete sonatas and a number of 'orphaned' movements, as well as a good deal of other music by Weiss, including his famous Tombeau for Count Losy (1721), and the lute parts for a number of chamber works which were reconstructed for the edition.

The current project is the production of facsimile and staff-notation editions of the Dresden manuscript. This comprises a set of six manuscript volumes assembled shortly after Weiss's death in 1750 from diverse sources, including several autographs from different periods of his life. One of the volumes is a single lute part for a series of ensemble works, including concertos and lute duets. Unfortunately, all the accompanying parts have been lost, and these works will be reconstructed in a style conjecturally as close as possible to Weiss's to permit modern performance.

(References: 1. D.A. Smith, 'S.L. Weiss's Late Sonatas', unpublished PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1977 2. T. Crawford, 'Editing Weiss for the Sämtliche Werke: the composer's contribution to the London and Dresden manuscripts', Congress S.L. Weiss, Life and Times, Freiburg, September 1992. Report forthcoming.)

Department of Computing, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7078 5056 | Fax: +44 (0) 20 7919 7853 | Email: t.crawford@gold.ac.uk