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
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.
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.