Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW
Plain text for smartphones
and printers



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

 

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from:

Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644 - 1704)
Mystery Sonatas
Sonata I: The Annunciation [5:49]
Sonata II: The Visitation [5:17]
Sonata III: The Nativity [7:19]
Sonata IV: The Presentation in the Temple [7:53]
Sonata V: The Finding in the Temple [7:22]
Sonata VI: The Agony in the Garden [7:26]
Sonata VII: The Scourging [9:28]
Sonata VIII: The Crowning with Thorns [6:05]
Sonata IX: The Carrying of the Cross [7:41]
Sonata X: The Crucifixion [9:04]
Sonata XI: The Resurrection [8:29]
Sonata XII: The Ascension [7:41]
Sonata XIII: The Descent of the Holy Ghost [8:12]
Sonata XIV: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin [8:40]
Sonata XV: The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin [11:30]
Passacaglia [10:47]
Julia Wedman (violin), Felix Deak (cello, viola da gamba), Lucas Harris (archlute, theorbo), Julia Seager Scott (harp), Charlotte Nediger (harpsichord, organ)
rec. 26-29 April, 4-9 July 2010, Grace Church on-the-Hill, 300 Lonsdale Rd, Toronto, Canada. DDD
DORIAN SONO LUMINUS DSL-92127 [73:26 + 55:20]

Experience Classicsonline



The so-called 'Mystery Sonatas' by Biber belong amongst the most frequently performed instrumental pieces of the 17th century. That can be explained by their musical quality and their rather mysterious character. We don't know what Biber called his sonatas as the title page of the manuscript has been lost. There can be no doubt about the connection to the Rosary, though, as every sonata is accompanied by an engraving which refers to a station of the Rosary. How exactly these are depicted in the music is a matter of much speculation.
 
It is generally assumed that the sonatas were composed around 1678. They were dedicated to Max Gandolph von Kuenberg, the archbishop of Salzburg and Biber's employer. They were never published and may have been intended for performances in the archbishop's own chapel. Some believe that they were rather to be performed in the Aula Academica, the lecture hall of the Jesuit confraternity in Salzburg. The hall contains fifteen paintings depicting the mysteries, and the Jesuits strongly advocated Rosary devotion with music.
 
The venue where the sonatas may have been performed could have consequences for modern performances, in particular in regard to the scoring of the basso continuo. When the sonatas were played in Max Gandolph's chapel, it is unlikely that a battery of instruments would have been used in the basso continuo. In performances in the larger space of the Aula Academica more instruments could have been involved. I recently saw a list of available recordings, which came to as few short of 30. These show very different solutions to this issue. Some have opted for a number of instruments, playing in various combinations from one sonata to the other. One of the most sober is that by Andrew Manze who is accompanied only by harpsichord or organ, with a cello in Sonata XII where Biber indicated the participation of a violone. Julia Wedman is one of those who opted for a larger ensemble of cello or viola da gamba, archlute or theorbo and harpsichord or organ, with a harp in Sonata XIII

The latter is chosen on the basis of Ms Wedman's personal interpretation of this particular sonata. "I chose to use the harp as an added colour in the continuo section to emphasize the unusual, almost creepy tonal colours which highlight the strange and frightening experience of the Holy Spirit's descent". In her comments she delivers her personal view on the various sonatas. Obviously everyone is entitled to his or her opinions. Even so, I believe she may read too much into some of the sonatas. Her views are sometimes too much of the 21st-century. An example is her comment on the Sonata V: "The Double is my favourite part of this sonata because it reminds me of the excited chatter of kids on the way home from an exciting day. I always imagine Jesus saying to Joseph "Dad - guess what happened???" Somehow I feel that such a thought was not on Biber's mind while writing this part of his sonata.
 
These personal views are also at odds with the liner-notes by Lindsey Strand-Polyak, who pays much attention to the ritual of Rosary prayer. One of its essential elements is repetition. "... repetition as a devotional aid, as exemplified in the Rosary, has been used for centuries as a way of intensifying the meditative experience and helps bring the devotee into a state of contemplation". She then argues that this could well explain the feature of repetition in these sonatas. Several of them have the character of a theme with variations, which allows for an increase of intensity. So does the use of a dance with repeated sections and the addition of a double. Lastly Biber makes use of ciaccona and passacaglia - the endless repeat of the same bass pattern is an almost ideal way of intensifying the emotion during the course of the piece.
 
There has been much speculation about the connection between the Rosary and music. There are some clear depictions of stages in Jesus' life, like the scourging and the hammering of the nails into the cross. Further study of these sonatas could well reveal more details in this matter. The main thing is that these sonatas were meant to help the listener to meditate on the mysteries rather than to illustrate them.
 
The fact that these sonatas are technically challenging obviously contributes to violinists being attracted to them. One of their features is the use of scordatura, the technique of detuning the violin in order to achieve special sonic effects. As Julia Wedman explains in her own notes, that can be quite disturbing for a violinist who needs time and effort to get used to these different tunings. However, even without the use of scordatura these sonatas are difficult enough. The performances by Ms Wedman are admirable. Her technique is immaculate, and this allows for a concentration on content. I like her tone which has the kind of intensity and penetration which this repertoire requires. Her views on these sonatas may be speculative and even questionable from a historical point of view, but they certainly make for compelling interpretations. She isn't afraid of strongly opposing tempi and explores the full dynamic range of the instrument. These are certainly not middle-of-the-road interpretations.
 
That said, there are some issues which have to be addressed, in addition to what has been said about Ms Wedman's personal views. One of them is the use of a cello in the basso continuo which is questionable. It struck me that in the article on the cello in New Grove Germany and Austria are not mentioned in the paragraph devoted to the 17th century. Apparently it was the viola da gamba that was the dominating string bass instrument. Equally debatable is the use of a harp. The organ is a logical option, probably preferable throughout these sonatas. In Sonata XI it is a little too dominant in one episode, largely overpowering the violin. As far as Ms Wedman's playing is concerned, good and stylish as it is, a stronger differentiation between good and bad notes would have been desirable.
 
All in all, this is one of the better recordings of these sonatas, and well worth considering if you don't have them. Even if you have some recordings, Ms Wedman's interpretation is interesting enough justify adding it to your collection.
 
Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.