Silvius Leopold Weiss

engraving by Bartolomeo Folin from 1766
from a (circa) 1730 painting by Balthasar Denner

On this site you will find informations on the life and work of the most famous lutenist in the baroque, Silvius Leopold Weiss. Also he was estimated highly as a componist by his contemporaries.
After having been forgotten for nearly 200 years, he was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century. Most of his almost 100 solo sonatas are available as CD-recordings and even his ensemble works, that mostly exist only in one lute part, have been reconstructed in the meantime. A big sensation is the finding of a complete lute duo and lute trio in a manuscript of the Harrach family in 2004.


Silvius or Sylvius?
Regarding the spelling of his Christian name

Weiss’ Christian name can be found indifferently spelled Silvius or Sylvius. Michel Cardin (see List of interprets) wrote :

« The only portrait of Silvius Leopold Weiss (see above) we have is an engraving by Bartolomeo Folin (Leipzig, 1766) inspired by a painting, now disappeared, by Balthasar Denner, executed approximately in 1730. One can read underneath the medallion : « Silvius Leopold Weiss. Born in Breslau on 12 October 1686. Died in Dresden on 15 October 1750. Only Sylvius can play the lute. »1
It may be because of this engraving that the spelling of Silvius’ Christian name change according to the dictionaries (when his name appeared in them !) and other publications, for it appears in the form of Sylvius and not Silvius, which he used to sign his letters. The bottom line is that both spellings are correct. The « y » was the modern European norm for Sylain, Sylvio, etc. The « i » would fit in the logic of the Latin suffix « -us », which was an affectation then fashionable among 18th century German artists. Weiss’ two Christian names thus formulated are similar, only inverted, to those of Wolfgang Amadeus, for instance. He actually signed his letters Silvius Leopoldus Weiss and called one of his sons (he had 7 children) Adolf Faustinus - who incidentally took after his father as lute player at the court of Dresden. »

1 Cf. Weiss´ life for the discussion on place and date of birth



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