The joyful and spiritual realm of Biber, both religious and secular

Biber Deuter

The Strad Issue: September 2019

Description: The joyful and spiritual realm of Biber, both religious and secular

Musicians: Harmonie Universelle/Florian Deuter, Mónica Waisman (violins); Francesco Corti (organ)

Works: BIBER Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum MUFFAT Toccata Duodecima

Catalogue Number: Accent ACC24357 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s best known collection of fiddle music is the ‘Mystery’ Sonatas, with their scordatura tunings and sympathy with the Marian rosary. His Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum mixes, as the title suggests, music for both religious and secular uses, and was written for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Maximilian Gandolph von Kuenburg. These are twelve sonatas, the first six for two violins, two violas and continuo, and the second for the same ensemble but with only one viola (there are other theories here, which are not to be dwelt on now). These are works of constant joy, varying in length between under four minutes and nearly eight, and having four or more slow and fast inner sections.

The first sound here is an ebullient chordal hello, which lasts a moment before giving way to a slow section, played with a wonderful sustained legato, its melodic lines subtly shaped. The fast section that follows is crisp and buoyant, full of rhythmic vigour. These are features of all that is to come. The sound is always warm, even lush, and the continuo team in full voice provide terrific snap and heft. The organ is in the Church of St Leodegar, Niederehe, on which Francesco Corti performs Muffat’s Toccata Duodecima at the midpoint of the CD. The recording is clear, incorporating the acoustic of the church without letting it dominate.