Don’t be put off by the title: this is wonderful music, and all the words indicate is that the pieces can be used in church or court… what you get in these 12 sonatas is the music of gesture: sweeping roulades, folksy melodies, plangent fanfares. Fiercely incisive playing from Ars Antiqua, the six strings led by Gunar Letzbor, and unforced accuracy from the trumpets.
Violinist Vaughan Jones brings us a fascinating collection of 18th century solo works. Three hundred years after their first publication, Austrian composer Johann Joseph Vilsmayr's Six Partitas for Solo Violin are recorded here in their entirety for the first time. Johann Georg Pisendel was a famous Baroque violinist and composer. His fiendishly difficult Violin Sonata is an unpredictable, tempestuous and capricious work, showing great scope and ambition. To round out the recording, Jones plays the famous Passacaglia by Biber - a somber, moving work and a perfect end to this noteworthy set.
Biber's 'Rosary Sonatas' for violin and basso continuo stand alone in the violin literature and in music history, offering a unique combination of programmatic material and the use of scordatura. The cycle consists of fifteen sonatas for violin and basso continuo, and a closing Passacaglia for solo violin, composed c.1687. Through the copper engravings inserted at the head of each sonata in the manuscript depicting key moments in the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the music has become associated with the Catholic Mysteries of the Rosary.
At the end of the Thirty Years War, the support of the Viennese Imperial Court allowed the emergence of an extraordinarily talented generation of musicians speaking with virtuosity, humour and depth. Schmelzer, Biber and Kerll were at the forefront. For Carnival festivities where music has pride of place they regale us with earthy works that mimic the sounds of nature and everyday life. They also had to meet the taste of Emperor Leopold I, who particularly appreciated imitative counterpoint, and for whom they composed these sonatas which have the power to elevate the soul and spirit.
This is a gem of a CD. It's a well-chosen, well-performed and well-presented anthology of mid-Baroque German sacred cantatas. Bass Peter Kooij and the seven-person L'Armonia Sonora are directed by gambist Mieneke Van der Velden. They have a close and warm affinity not only with one another, but also for the music; it's music as varied as it's beautiful. Its rich, sustained sonorities will stay with you long after you have finished the uplifting experience of listening to the CD. Released on the enterprising Ramée label De profundis clamavi comprises seven sumptuous examples of the music written in the north German Länder in the period after the Thirty Years War. It's music which not so much 'reflects' that profound conflict, as is 'affected' by it – weighed down with detached regret and unselfconscious resignation.
The violinist, Helene Schmitt, manifests herself completely in this new recording for the German label AEOLUS. A genuine accomplishment for the musician. The Rosary Sonatas not only deal with mysteries, they are a mystery themselves. With this violin cycle made up of fifteen sonatas and a solo passacaglia, Biber created one of the most astonishing works of the entire violin repertoire. Famous and even today not completely decrypted in terms of its significance is the assignment of the sonatas to the sacred Christian mysteries.
Like a great, mysterious nebula, the dazzling Missa Salisburgensis arches over the world of polychoral music by virtue of the exceptional complexity and richness of its means, which are deployed to create a unique expression in sound and space, symbolising with extraordinary exuberance and efficiency all the strength and grandeur of divine power, political and religious power. Shrouded in mystery and regarded by specialists as the Everest of polychoral compositions, this work was discovered by a Salzburg grocer in 1870. At first it was mistakenly attributed to the composer Orazio Benevoli, but now, as Professor Ernst Hintermaier explains (see his accompanying commentary), it is unanimously considered to be among the masterpieces of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, one of the greatest and most talented Austrian composers of the Baroque period.