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Biber: The Rosary Sonatas
     

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas

by Pavlo Beznosiuk
 
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's "Rosary Sonatas" were written in Salzburg in the 1670s or 1680s, and they're really unlike anything else in the violin literature. Scordatura, or unconventional tuning of an instrument's strings, was common enough during the Baroque era, but Biber's cycle of 15 pieces for violin and continuo explores the technique exhaustively: each of the

Overview

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's "Rosary Sonatas" were written in Salzburg in the 1670s or 1680s, and they're really unlike anything else in the violin literature. Scordatura, or unconventional tuning of an instrument's strings, was common enough during the Baroque era, but Biber's cycle of 15 pieces for violin and continuo explores the technique exhaustively: each of the 15 sonatas uses a different tuning. The result is music of fearsome difficulty for the player, and, as with Bach's best music, technical complexity generates spiritual intensity. Each sonata represents one of the Mysteries of the Catholic Rosary, which are divided into five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, for example), five Sorrowful Mysteries (concluding with Christ's crucifixion), and five Glorious Mysteries (centered on the Resurrection and on Mary's Assumption). Some of the tunings are downright outlandish; as the music reaches its spiritual climax in the "Resurrection" sonata, Biber specifies that the violin be played with its two central strings crossed, perhaps to symbolize the meeting of heaven and earth or the Cross of the Crucifixion itself. The sheer individuality of the "Rosary Sonatas" has made them increasingly popular in recent years, and violinists have in turn taken sharply differing approaches to them. The distinctive feature of this set by Ukrainian-Irish violinist Pavlo Beznosiuk is his attempt to place the music deep into its original context, with notes by James Clements explaining the roots of Biber's work in an Austrian university fraternity devoted to the Rosary. The most obvious result of this performance philosophy is that each sonata is prefaced by a spoken reading (by Timothy West) of a relevant text, taken from one of three old Rosary psalters. This will be either spiritually enlightening or extremely off-putting, depending on your point of view. Beznosiuk himself, playing on a variety of Baroque violins, ably sets a mystical tone; in his own notes he refers to Zen Buddhism, so this is plainly not intended as some kind of Catholic tract in music. The nicest feature of this recording is the three-person continuo accompaniment, which offers evocatively shifting colors as each of the three players switches between pairs of closely related instruments. Keyboardist David Roblou plays a harpsichord and a very nifty chamber organ. Paula Chateauneuf alternates between theorbo and archlute, instruments that blend beautifully with Roblou's organ and deep-voiced harpsichord. Finally, Richard Tunnicliffe plays both a viola da gamba and the much less often-heard violone. Avie's sound engineering is very well attuned to what's happening here. Violinists and continuo players will want to hear this disc regardless of whether they own a set of Rosary beads.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/20/2004
Label:
Avie
UPC:
0822252003826
catalogNumber:
38
Rank:
147430

Related Subjects

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Reading: The Rosary (Spoken Word)  (00:52)
  2. The Five Joyful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Annunciation

    1. Reading. The Annunciation  (01:41)
  3. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 1 in D minor ("The Annunciation"), C. 90  (06:09)
  4. The Five Joyful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Visitation

    1. Reading. The Visitation  (00:55)
  5. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 2 in A major ("The Visitation"), C. 91  (05:04)
  6. The Five Joyful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Nativity

    1. Reading. The Nativity  (01:42)
  7. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 3 in B minor ("The Nativity"), C. 92  (07:27)
  8. The Five Joyful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Presentation in The Temple

    1. Reading. The Presentation in The Temple  (01:10)
  9. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 4 in D minor ("The Presentation"), C. 93  (07:22)
  10. The Five Joyful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Finding in The Temple

    1. Reading. The Finding in The Temple  (01:09)
  11. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 5 in A major ("Jesus in the Temple"), C. 94  (07:53)
  12. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Agony in The Garden

    1. Reading. The Agony in The Garden  (02:40)
  13. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 6 in C minor ("The Agony in the Garden"), C. 95  (07:43)
  14. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Scourging

    1. Reading. The Scourging  (01:12)
  15. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 7 in F major ("The Scourging"), C. 96  (09:03)
  16. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Crowning with Thorns

    1. Reading. The Crowning with Thorns  (00:52)
  17. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 8 in B flat major ("The Crowning with Thorns"), C. 97  (06:10)
  18. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Carrying of The Cross

    1. Reading. The Carrying of The Cross  (02:22)
  19. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 9 in A minor ("The Carrying of the Cross"), C. 98  (08:11)

Disc 2

  1. The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (Spoken Word): Reading. The Crucifixion

    1. Reading. The Crucifixion  (03:31)
  2. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 10 in G minor ("The Crucifixion"), C. 99  (08:26)
  3. The Five Glorious Mysteries: Reading. The Resurrection

    1. Reading. The Resurrection  (01:52)
  4. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 11 in G major ("The Resurrection"), C. 100  (08:17)
  5. The Five Glorious Mysteries: Reading. The Ascension

    1. Reading. The Ascension  (01:15)
  6. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 12 in C major ("The Ascension"), C. 101  (07:47)
  7. The Five Glorious Mysteries: Reading. The Descent of The Holy Ghost

    1. Reading. The Descent of The Holy Ghost  (01:00)
  8. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 13 in D minor ("The Descent"), C. 102  (10:04)
  9. The Five Glorious Mysteries: Reading. The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin

    1. Reading. The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin  (00:47)
  10. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 14 in D major ("The Assumption"), C. 103  (08:24)
  11. The Five Glorious Mysteries: Reading. The Coronation of The Blessed Virgin

    1. Reading. The Coronation of The Blessed Virgin  (01:48)
  12. Mystery Sonata, for violin & continuo No. 15 in C major ("The Coronation"), C. 104  (11:54)
  13. The Guardian Angel, reading: Reading

    1. Reading  (02:03)
  14. Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata), for violin solo in G minor (standard tuning), C. 105  (10:02)

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