Early Music Vancouver

Dates: 6 August 2003
: Recital Hall, UBC

Reviewer: Elizabeth Paterson





Artists Robert Barto, baroque lute
Paul O'Dette,  Stephen Stubbs, renaissance lute and baroque guitar


Vancouver Early Music’s annual workshops always draw major artists to Vancouver and this year they are also hosting a workshop of the Lute Society of America.  We are doubly lucky.

Wednesday night’s concert, showcased the exquisite art of Robert Barto on baroque lute, followed by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs playing together on renaissance lute and baroque guitar.

Robert Barto is proponent and promoter of Sylvius Weiss. Weiss was famous in his time, considered to be one of the top instrumentalists and the equal of J.S. Bach, his precise contemporary, in improvisation. But as a composer chiefly for the solo lute his reputation fell into obscurity with the changes in taste in music and today he is a specialist’s study. Barto has set out to restore his reputation and in this concert, as in his recordings, he is triumphantly successful. 

A programme of baroque pieces can read as dance movement after dance movement. One’s heart might sink.  Weiss will make it soar. 






This is quintessential lute music, full of comfort and restoration for the soul, speaking of beauty, humaneness, intimacy.  It rippled from Barto’s fingers with unassuming ease.  If “Art lies in concealing the art,” then both Barto and Weiss are supreme artists.

Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs took us back in time to the Renaissance, also with lutes, and then forward again to the Baroque, this time on baroque guitar.Their programme was a lesson in music and performance history.  Grounds, improvisation, equal music, plucking, strumming were on display, but played with such musicality that all pedagogy disappeared.O’Dette and Stubbs knocked sparks off each other.  O’Dette’s virtuoso rendition of "The New Hunt’s Up" was brilliant. A sense of fun and enjoyment pervaded all their playing, culminating in their encore piece (not named), ragtime on the lute.

This concert will be broadcast by the CBC on In Performance, on August 18.  Check CBC listings for times.

© 2003, Elizabeth Paterson