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.
Many of the musicians we know and adore come to us only through recorded media. They step into a studio, bear their souls into a digital void, and send the results out into a world of ears. These blessed creators may seem immortal to us, for even when their bodies are gone they continue living through the art they have gifted to humanity. Such thoughts weighed on my mind when I first listened to Der Türken Anmarsch, for in addition to signing off a fourteen-year project by baroque violinist John Holloway to engage the fascinations of composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704), it was the last recording to feature Holloway’s wife, organist Aloysia Assenbaum, who along with harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen fashioned the most distinctive continuo in Baroque music.
The music on this recording demonstrates how composers in Germany, Italy, Austria and England responded to the challenges of writing for violin senza basso. Music for violin senza basso had a distinguished history before Bach and was widely cultivated by his contemporaries. Violinistic virtuosity was extraordinarily experimental in the late seventeenth century, with novelties in the tuning of the strings (scordaura), bowing techniques, chordal playing and contrapuntal textures (with the development of sophisticated double-, triple- and quadruple-stopping techniques) and playing in high positions. This disc of solo violin music is a real mixture of some of Rachel’s favourite pieces.