Heinrich I.F. Biber

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber was one of the first great instrumental composers, a thoroughly idiosyncratic musical thinker, and by many accounts the finest violinist of the seventeenth century.

He was born on a large estate, where his father was the huntsman or forester. There is no record of his early development as a musician.

What is known is that by the mid-1660s he was in the orchestra of Prince-Bishop Karl Lichtenstein-Kastelkorn of Olmuetz, one of the leading music-lovers of the time and the owner of one of the great collections of early Baroque music manuscripts. Biber's fame was growing to the extent that he felt he could do better elsewhere, and left the Bishop's employment in 1670.

However, he had not obtained permission to do so and, according to the rules of that time, the Prince-Bishop issued a warrant for his arrest. Biber hid out with an instrument maker in the South Tyrol, Jakob Stainer, who was spreading the word that Biber was a "formidable virtuoso."

Biber obtained a job with the court of Maximilian Gandolf, Reichsgraf von Khoenberg, Prince Bishop of Salzburg, in the winter of 1670. In May 1672 he married. In Salzburg he obtained a series of promotions: trainer of the cathedral choir boys (1677); vice-Kapellmeister (1679); dean of the choir boys' school and Court Kapellmeister (1684).

It is not known whether Biber traveled much. The record shows that he was decorated by the Bavarian court twice, indicating his presence in Munich, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, awarded him a patent of nobility in 1690, raising an inference that he also played in Vienna.However, he composed and published extensively. His jilted first employer in Olmuetz received many of his manuscripts and first editions directly from Biber, indicating that Biber was forgiven for his independence.Biber is best known to history for his violin music, especially for writing pieces exploiting effects made possible through scordatura, or non-standard tuning of the violin.

However, he also wrote two operas (one of which survives) and a variety of religious music.The two most famous works heavily reliant on scordatura for special tone colors are the Mystery Sonatas (15 sonatas on the Rosary) and Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa, a work for string ensemble.He was also advanced in his treatment of the trumpet, writing sonatas for trumpet and strings. He may have been the author of the Messa salisburgensis, a highly polyphonic work in 53 voices. Previously attributed to Orazio Benevoli and dated 1628, it now appears to have been by Biber and first heard in 1682.

Biber had a highly accomplished contrapuntal mind which, coupled with a truly outstanding melodic gift, makes his music a wonderful flow of invention. He was also unconventional, with piles-ups of textures and ideas in his music that are oddly comparable with those of Charles Ives. Paul Hindemith considered him the greatest composer before J.C. Bach.

Joseph Stevenson

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
Compilation (1964) Höfische Konzertmusik des österreichischen Barock 5.00 stars LP
Mexican Comments:
Sonata a 6- die Pauern Kirchfahrt genannt
Sonata a 2 Violini, Trombone, Violone
Sonata VIII - Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum
Battalia

The Batallia is Biber's Apocalyps Now

Concentus Musicus Wien cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Compilation (2008) Requiem, Sacred Works, Battalia, Pauern Kirchfahrt, Ballettae, Sonatae 5.00 stars CD
Comments:
Same recording as above + a compilation of other recordings

Concentus Musicus Wien cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Published 1968 Mystery Sonatas 4.50 stars 2LP
Mexican Comments:
Biber's best known work.

15 Sonatas and Passacalgia for Violin and B.C.

Besides the images in the manuscript, another technique uniting the sonatas is the use of scordatura (the retuning of the violin strings to notes other than the conventional g, d', a', e'') in all but the first and last of the sonatas, requiring a total of fifteen different tunings in the whole collection. The compositions using scordatura are notated in the manner of certain tablatures in that the violinist is told where on the string to place the fingers, but the resulting pitch is different from the notated pitch. The requisite scordatura tuning is indicated at the start of each composition, along with a signature often including a curious mixture of sharp and flat signs. The most extraordinary scordatura tuning in the set is in Rosary Sonata XI ('The Resurrection'), which requires the violinist to interchange the middle two strings, crossing them before the bridge of the violin and again at the nut, resulting in a symbolic cross shape. (From www.bluntinstrument.org.uk)

Eduard Melkus - Violin
B.C.:Huguette Dreyfus, Lionel Rogg, Karl Scheit

Compilation (1968) Um 1670 - 1695 4.50 stars LP
Mexican Comments:
Sonata St. Polycarpi
- For eight trumpets and B.C. (Violoncello, Violone, organ)

Laetatus sum a 7
- Cantata for two basses, violin and B.C.

In Festo Trium Regium, Muttetum Natale a 6 (Dreikoeningskantate)
- For twor sopranos, 2 flutes, 2 oboes and B.C.

Requiem
- Solist, choir, strings, 3 trombones, dulcia continuo and organ

Solists,
Wiener Saengerknaben
Original period instruments cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Compilation (1970) Komoediantische Musik des Barock 4.50 stars LP
Mexican Comments:
Sonata Violino Solo representativa

This is Biber's Carnaval des animaux

Concentus Musicus Wien
Original period instruments cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Comments:
Same production as above as CD release

Sonata Violino Solo representativa

This is Biber's Carnaval des animaux

Concentus Musicus Wien
Original period instruments cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Compilation (1972) Concentus Musicus Ensemble fuer alte Musik 4.00 stars 7 LP
Comments:
Balletti Lamentabili (Lamento - Allemanda - Sarabanda - Gavotte -Gigue - Lamento)
Sonata X, Christus am Kreuz (aus den Mysteriensonaten) (Praeludium - Aria -Variatio)
Mensa Sonora (1680), Pars I (Sonata - Allemanda - Courante - Sarabanda - Gavotte - Gigue - Sonatina)
Sonata X, (aus Fidicinium sacro-profanum )

Concentus Musicus Wien
Original period instruments cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Compilation (1983) Sonatae lam aris, quam aulis servientes 4.50 stars CD
Mexican Comments:
Twelve sonatas for trumpets, strings, timpani and continuo

The Parley of Instruments cond. Roy Gooman, Peter Holman

? Sonatae lam aris, quam aulis servientes 4.50 stars CD
Comments:
Musica Antiqua Köln cond. Reinhard Goebel
Gabrieli Consort & Players cond. Paul McCreesh
Compilation (2004) Soldiers, Gypsies, Famers and a Night Watchman 4.50 stars SACD
Mexican Comments:
Arien a 4
Die Pauernkirchfahrt
Balletto Die Werber
Serenada a 5 Mit dem Nachtwaechterlied
Part 3 from Mensa Sonora
Balletti
Battalia
Sonata Jucunda

Combattimeno Consort Amsterdam cond. Jan Willem de Vriend

1673 Bataille 4.50 stars CD
Mexican Comments:
Older recording from 1991

Combattimeno Consort Amsterdam cond. Jan Willem de Vriend

1682? Missa Salisburgensis à 53 voci 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Musica Antiqua Köln cond. Reinhard Goebel
Gabrieli Consort & Players cond. Paul McCreesh
After 1690 Requiem a 15, for solo voices, chorus, orchestra & continuo 4.00 stars 50 CD
Comments:
Koor & Orkest van de Nederlandse Bachvereniging cond. Gustav Leonhardt
1692-1693 Litaniae Sancto Josepho 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Solists
Konrad Junghaenel, Cantus Coelln
? Sonata Sancti Polycarpi 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Solists
Konrad Junghaenel, Cantus Coelln
? Sonata Sancti Polycarpi 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Musica Antiqua Köln cond. Reinhard Goebel
Gabrieli Consort & Players cond. Paul McCreesh
? Missa Alleluija 4.00 stars CD
Comments:
Solists
Gradus ad Parnassum cond. Konrad Junghaenel