Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber – Missa Bruxellensis
Recorded on 22-25 May, 1999 at The Salzburg Cathedral.
World First Recording.
About the author:
Biber was born in Wartenberg (now Stráž pod Ralskem, Czech Republic). He received his first position in 1668 as musician in the court of Archbishop Karl Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn at Olmutz. But Biber failed to return from a visit to Innsbruck without permission. On this visit he met the then-famous violin maker Jakob Stainer, who mentioned him in a later document as “der vortreffliche Virtuos (the outstanding virtuoso) Herr Biber.” He was first a violinist at the castle of Kroměříž, and in 1684 became Kapellmeister in Salzburg, where he died twenty years later. Biber’s music exemplifies the Austrian baroque style, which is a combination of Italian and German influences. His works show a predilection for canonic use and harmonic diapason that pre-date the later Baroque works of Johann Pachelbel and Johann Sebastian Bach. He was known as a violin virtuoso and is best known for his highly virtuosic and expressive violin works, many of which employ scordatura (unconventional tunings of the open strings). In his violin music Biber built on the achievements of earlier Italian violinist-composers such as Marini, Fontana, and Uccellini, as well as his older Austrian contemporary (and possible teacher) Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. The music of Biber has enjoyed a renaissance, in part, because of the Rosary Sonatas. This remarkable set of 16 sonatas is also known as the Mystery Sonatas (in reference to key events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ) and the Copper-Engraving Sonatas (because of the engravings at the head of the sonatas). Each sonata employs a different tuning of the violin. This use of scordatura transforms the violin’s expressivity from the pleasures of the Five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, etc.) through the trauma of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries (the Crucifixion, etc.) to the ethereal nature of the Six Glorious Mysteries. The Glorious Mysteries start with the Resurrection Sonata—where the two middle strings are symbolically crossed over—and end with a passacaglia for solo violin using standard tuning (Sonata No 16), thereby completing the cycle of scordaturas. Remarkably, in Sonata No 15 Biber anticipates the theme of Paganini’s Capriccio No 24 almost exactly. We can assume that Paganini took his inspiration from Biber (just as Liszt, Brahms and Rachmaninov were later inspired by Paganini’s famous Caprice). The Rosary Sonatas remained unpublished during Biber’s lifetime. Among his important published collections of instrumental music are a set of eight sonatas (1681) for violin and continuo and the magisterial Harmonia artificioso-ariosa (consisting of seven trio sonata-suites utilizing scordatura violins and violas d’amore). Biber was a prolific composer of sacred vocal music, of the which the two Requiems and the Missa Christi resurgentis are outstanding examples. The Missa Salisburgensis is an astonishing polyphonic setting of the mass for 53 independent voices which is currently attributed to Biber (it was previously thought to be the work of Orazio Benevoli).
About this work:
Simpler (for only 23 voices) than the Missa Salisburgensis (which was for 52), this Mass was the last Biber is known to have composed. Nonetheless this is still a very grand and sumptuous piece reflecting the church militant and triumphant, composed for the inauguration of the knightly order of St. Rupert, and representing the height of the counter-reformation æsthetic. The performance is very well rendered by La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations, and is distinguished by having been recorded in the cathedral of Salzburg, where it was originally presented three centuries ago under the composer’s direction. Amidst the pomp and complexity of the piece, melodic beauty is never absent. Biber can dazzle and startle, but he also charms with his tunefulness. In this he looks ahead to his famous successor at Salzburg – Mozart. This is a lovely recording.
1. Kyrie (5:02)
2. Gloria (16:59)
3. Credo (15:40)
4. Sanctus (9:45)
5. Agnus Dei (3:58)
La Capella Real De Catalunya:
L. Scherrer, a. Huete, R. Konrad & S. Roset: soprano
P. Bertin, D. Sagastume, C. Mena & J. Domènech: countertenor
L. Climent, Ll. Vilamajó, F. Garrigosa & A: Aragón: tenor
A. Abete, X. Sans, D. Carnovich & Y. Bergé: bass
M. Bewhringer & L. Guglielmi: organ
Le Concert Des Nations:
R. Callmar, G. Ferber, P. geay & A. Hammwersley: trumpets
J. Borrás: basson
P. Estevan: timpani
J.P. Canihac & M. Garnier: cornets à bouquin
S. Legée, D. Lassalle & B. Fourtet: sacqueboutes
C. García Bernalt & P. Waldner: organ
Jordi Savall: conductor