The First Sonata opens with a simple chord from the continuo and over a mysterious sustained note stretched out like a canvas, the violin is given free rein to indulge in the quasi-improvisation play, so mesmerising in its patterns. It is even more fascinating to discover that every single note heard is written down: see to believe! Handling the difficult score with such supreme confidence, and almost relishing the challenge, it is a joy to catch his enthusiasm in the bold and easy way he conveys the music. The fearless way he takes off through a haze of notes sample the Variation in the Third Sonata , his range of dynamics and slides are simply breathtaking.

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Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. His technique allowed him to easily reach the 6th and 7th positions , employ multiple stops in intricate polyphonic passages, and explore the various possibilities of scordatura tuning.

In the late 18th century he was named the best violin composer of the 17th century by music historian Charles Burney. Today, it is widely performed and recorded. Biber apparently enjoyed a good reputation, and his violin playing skills were very highly regarded. In summer Karl II sent Biber to Absam , near Innsbruck , to negotiate with the celebrated instrument maker Jacob Stainer for the purchase of new instruments for the Kapelle.

It is not coincidental that most of the autograph compositions Biber sent to Kremsier date from the early s. Biber remained in Salzburg for the rest of his life. His musical and social careers flourished: he started publishing his music in , performed before the Emperor Leopold I and was rewarded by him in , became deputy Kapellmeister at Salzburg in and Kapellmeister in The composer was married on 30 May at the Bishop's summer residence, Hellbrunn Palace , just outside Salzburg.

Together they had 11 children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Anton Heinrich — and Carl Heinrich — both served as violinists at the Salzburg court, and the latter was promoted to Kapellmeister in Anna Magdalena was an alto singer and a violinist, and in became director of the choir and the Kapelle of the Abbey.

Biber died in Salzburg in , and his grave is located in the Petersfriedhof. Biber's violin music was possibly influenced, on one hand, by the Italian tradition of Marco Uccellini and Carlo Farina , and on the other, by the then-nascent German polyphonic tradition as exemplified by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer , who may have been Biber's teacher.

Biber's achievements included further development of violin technique — he was able to reach the 6th and 7th positions , and his left-hand and bowing techniques were far more advanced than those of contemporary Italian composers. He also excelled at counterpoint, frequently writing fully polyphonic textures, with much use of multiple stops.

Yet another area in which Biber made a substantial contribution was the art of scordatura , i. Finally, much of Biber's music employs various forms of number symbolism , affekten , programmatic devices, etc. During the latter half of the 17th century Biber was, together with the composers of the Dresden school Johann Jakob Walther and Johann Paul von Westhoff , regarded as one of the best and most influential violinists in Europe.

However, soon after his death, German violinists started following the style of Arcangelo Corelli and his imitators. Biber's finest scordatura writing is represented in two collections. The first dates from c. It comprises sixteen pieces: fifteen sonatas for violin and continuo portraying the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary , and a long passacaglia for solo violin.

In the extant copy of the collection, each piece is accompanied by a small engraving depicting the mystery it portrays, while the image an ink drawing preceding the passacaglia depicts a guardian angel with a child. Only the first and the last pieces use normal tuning; all others employ some form of scordatura :. The sonatas were dedicated to Maximilian Gandolph von Khuenburg, whom Biber addresses in the preface: "I have consecrated the whole to the honour of the XV Sacred Mysteries, which you promote so strongly.

The entire set has been recorded by numerous violinists such as John Holloway , Andrew Manze , and many others. Sonata 15 is famous for one of its themes, which matches the theme of Paganini 's Caprice No.

The second work in which Biber explored scordatura techniques is Harmonia artificioso-ariosa , his last known published collection of instrumental music. It contains seven partitas for two instruments and basso continuo: five for two violins, one for two violas d'amore , and one for violin and viola.

Six of the partitas require scordatura tunings, including those for viola and two violas d'amore; Biber utilises the full potential of the technique, including all possibilities for complex polyphony: some of the pieces are in five parts, with both of the melodic instruments carrying two.

No other chamber works by Biber use such devices, and the only other pieces to use scordatura are two of the sonatas included in Sonatae violino solo of That collection comprises eight sonatas for violin and basso continuo, all noted already by Charles Burney in the late 18th century, for the brilliant virtuosic passages and elaborate structures.

In contrast to both Mystery Sonatas and Harmonia , these works consist mostly of pieces in free forms prelude, aria or variations, rather than dances. Sonatae tam aris contains sonatas in five, six or eight parts; some of them only use string instruments, some include one or two trumpets. Mensa sonora is a set of six partitas for one or two violins, viola, cello, and basso continuo, and Fidicinium sacro profanum comprises twelve sonatas for one or two violins, two violas, and continuo.

Finally, manuscript sources include numerous other pieces: fantasias, balletti, sonatas, etc. Among these are the Battalia , a programmatic "battle" piece which anticipates such latter-day techniques as polytonality and col legno playing, [12] and the Sonata representativa , another typical 17th-century piece similar to works by Walther and Farina, which imitates various birds and animals.

Unlike most composers for the violin, Biber did not limit himself to music for the instrument. He was also a prolific composer of sacred vocal works: masses , requiems , motets , etc.

Many of those were polychoral and employing large instrumental forces, inspired by the possibilities of the spacious interior of the Salzburg Cathedral. Among the polychoral works, Missa Salisburgensis is the best known.

An expansive setting of the mass for sixteen voices and 37 instrumentalists i. The instrumentation includes not only string ensembles, but also oboes , cornetts , trumpets , and timpani.

In tribute to the Emperor Henry II , the second founding saint of the convent , she took the name Maria Rosa Henrica when her novitiate began in The Mass of Saint Henry is scored for a five-voice choir with two soprano lines and an orchestra of two violins, three violas , two trumpets, timpani and continuo, with optional extra trumpets and sackbuts to double the voice parts.

Although Biber is best known for the massive polychoral works, he was also capable of writing for smaller forces. Missa quadragesimalis is a simple a cappella setting with only a continuo part provided for four voices, as is the Stabat Mater.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. List of works [13]. Dramma musicale in three acts C. Bertali wrote a number of similar sonatas for exactly the same scoring.

This sonata could possibly be attributed to Bertali except that the violin passages are sometimes more fanciful than any other in Bertali's works. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history.

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More by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber

The Rosary Sonatas Rosenkranzsonaten , also known as the Mystery Sonatas or Copper-Engraving Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber are a collection of 15 short sonatas for violin and continuo , with a final passacaglia for solo violin. Each has a title related to the Christian Rosary devotion practice and possibly to the Feast of the Guardian Angels. It is presumed that the Mystery Sonatas were completed around , but they were unknown until their publication in The music of Biber was never entirely forgotten due to the high technical skill required to play many of his works; this is especially true of his works for violin. Once rediscovered, the Mystery Sonatas became Biber's most widely known composition.


8 Violin Sonatas, C 138-145 (Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von)



Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber


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