Biber Archive

H.I.F. BIBER: The Mystery Sonatas — Christina Day Martinson, Boston Baroque — Linn 

H.I.F. BIBER: The Mystery Sonatas — Christina Day Martinson, Boston Baroque — Linn 

H.I.F. BIBER: The Mystery Sonatas — Christina Day Martinson, violin; Boston Baroque, dir. Martin Pearlman — Linn CKD501, 120:21, (5/19/18) ***: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber today is remembered as one of the great virtuosos of the middle baroque and an important innovator in Germanic violin composition. And among his surviving works, this collection, the Sonatas of the Mystery of the Rosary, receive a lot of attention due to their baroqueness. Each of the sonatas is based, it would seem, on a prayer from the Rosary. The printing of the collection was made with scenes depicting stories from the life of Christ. Some consider the pieces as musical meditations. Beyond the suggestion of these sonatas as program music, these sonatas are more curious because of Biber’s use of string mistuning, often called scordatura, from the Italian. Only the first and last pieces use a normally-tuned violin; the others vary the tuning of one or more strings which promote different chordal possibilities, but moreover, change the sonic quality of the instrument. As depicted on this cover, the most interesting sonata for scordatura is the tenth sonata, the Crucifixion. The performer must cross the middle two strings, forming a “cross” between the […]

BIBER: The Rosary Sonatas – Hélène Schmitt – Aeolus

BIBER: The Rosary Sonatas – Hélène Schmitt – Aeolus

BIBER: The Rosary Sonatas – Hélène Schmitt – Aeolus SACD AE–10256, 145:38, (7/13/17) *****: Biber, by now, has earned his place in the pantheon of baroque composers. Specifically, he represents the high art in Austrian music before Mozart. In trying to understand Biber the musician, it’s difficult to ignore the impact his Mystery or Rosary Sonatas have on informing us about his best work as a composer and virtuosity as a violinist. Biber scored fifteen of the sixteen works for violin and continuo, and capped these multi-movement works with a violin solo. The sonatas are each, in score, accompanied by visual scenes from the Rosary. The concluding passacaglia is sometimes called The Guardian Angel, based upon its accompanying visual image. The Passacaglia is reminiscent of the great Bach Ciaccona from his second partita, written likely around twenty years later than Biber’s collection. Of especial interest in these works is Biber’s use of scordatura—or re-tuning—of the violin strings. All but the first and last works require the performer to retune her instrument, offering us a new sonic signature for the instrument, in addition to new voicing possibilities for chords and faster passagework. This re-tuning offers a challenge to the modern performer […]

“Soaring Solo – Unaccompanied Works II” – Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, violin & viola – MSR Classics

“Soaring Solo – Unaccompanied Works II” – Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, violin & viola – MSR Classics

Don’t think twice about getting this wonderful recital. “Soaring Solo – Unaccompanied Works II” – Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, violin & viola – MSR Classics MS 1627, 73:32 [Distr. by Albany] *****: This is Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio’s second solo disc, the first called “Going Solo” following this same sort of format. Here, the artist says “Soaring effortlessly high above the clouds. That is the sensation I enjoy when I am in the perfect performance zone. It is a feeling of tremendous freedom and peace. As if I am weightless, I am soaring on air currents looking passively down on the tumultuous world below as the music flows past my ears. When I decided to record a second CD of solo pieces for violin and viola, Soaring Solo was the title that came ‘out of the blue’ and drifted into my consciousness.” Interesting, and no doubt pertinent to this fine violinist/ violist when selecting this program, but I am not sure how much it matters to the listener or our appreciation of the music. What is important is the wonderful technical acumen she brings to each piece on this recital regardless of instrument played, and the superb tonal qualities she manages on each. The […]