Biber's Fidicinum sacro-profanum … attempts a synthesis of sacred and profane, combining dances and contrapuntal rigor, if not artifice, under the umbrella of Biber's musical personality. These 12 sonatas … suggest Purcell's chunky vigor and exploratory fancy more distinctly than Corelli's elegantly restrained and serenely logical Fortspinnung. … Les Plaisirs du Parnasse … has tapped Biber's ingenious combinations of sounds, as rich and diverse in its own way as Vivaldi's. But rhythms assume an equal - and at times, even greater - significance. The detailed recorded sound possesses a winning depth and richness. Enthusiastically recommended to the ever-growing number of Biber's admirers as well as to more general listeners. (Robert Maxham, Fanfare, Jan/Feb 2009)
"…But, with his Fidicinium, Biber exploits the subject in a wholly innovative fashion, thanks to multiple musical and symbolic references, thereby asserting his status as one of the major figures of his era." - David Plantier
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 Purcell Quartet appears to be recording all of Heinrich Biber's string chamber music and their flexible lineup – Jane Rogers joins on viola to fill out the fifth part here – certainly facilitates Biber's rather unique requirements. The main concentration of Purcell Quartet's attention to Biber was in the 1990s; between 1994 and 1997, it recorded, in quick succession, the Harmonia artificiosa ariosa, Sonatae tam aris quam Aulis servientes, and the Fidicunium Sacro-Profanum. With this recording of the Mensa sonora, the only string chamber works Biber left that the Purcell Quartet hasn't gotten to are mostly solo sonatas – the Mystery Sonatas, the sonatas of 1681, and a number of miscellaneous sonatas and occasional pieces, not all of which are squarely landed in the camp of Biber and all of which are smaller than they are.
The seven partitas of Harmonia Artificiosa-Ariosa contain some of Biber’s finest chamber music outside of the Mystery Sonatas. They are consistently inventive and delightful. Especially noteworthy is the extended No. 7 in C minor with its lovely Arietta, actually more of a passacaglia/chaconne. No.3 ends with a chaconne structured as a canon in unison over a popular Italian bass line. This is so similar in concept to Pachelbel’s ubiquitous canon that you can’t help wondering if one of them took a cue from the other. Certainly, if wrested from obscurity, Biber’s might give Pachelbel’s a run for its money.