Biber: Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum (CD)

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Harmonie Universelle, Florian Deuter, Monica Waisman

The 17th-century Bohemian/Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber is best known for his works for solo violin, especially the Mystery Sonatas. However, he also wrote a considerable amount of music for string ensemble, including a set of 12 chamber sonatas subtitled Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum which was first published in Nuremberg in 1683. The title refers to the fact that the music in the sonatas combine sacred and secular styles.

In his collection Biber set new standards in the field of string chamber music. In the first part he composes for a five-part string ensemble: 2 violins, 2 violas, violone and basso continuo, a combination that was established at his time as the standard ensemble in Austrian cultural circles. In a richly coloured setting, Biber artfully weaves a polyphonic texture that allows the voices to alternate and come to the fore. In the second part of this collection he dispenses with the five-part arrangement hitherto predominant in Austria, and focuses on augmenting the flexibility of the four individual parts.

The present recording of Biber’s twelve chamber sonatas Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum is performed by Harmonie Universelle under its director Florian Deuter.

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  1. Sonata I in B minor
  2. Sonata II in F major
  3. Sonata III in D minor
  4. Sonata IV in G minor
  5. Sonata V in C major
  6. Sonata VI in A minor
  7. Toccata Duodecima
  8. Sonata VII in D major
  9. Sonata VIII in B flat major
  10. Sonata IX in G major
  11. Sonata X in E major
  12. Sonata XI in C minor
  13. Sonata XII in A major

The Classical Music Collector

"Slowly emerging from the shadows, Henrich Biber (1644-1704) is coming to be regarded as the outstanding composer of the early German Baroque. He is perhaps best known for his large-scale Masses, the remarkable solo violin/continuo Mystery Sonatas, and the extraordinary Battalia, with its depictions of cannon-fire, drunks, and the “Lament of the wounded musketeers”. The Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum is a series of twelve chamber sonatas for string ensemble, and all twelve are presented here, the two parts of the set separated by a dignified organ Toccata. Biber’s music is remarkably varied, sometimes contrapuntal, sometimes monumental, and the textures have a pleasing gravitas. The First Part is the more grandiose, while the Second part offers a lighter, dancelike quality. This is ornate and charming music that warms the heart." - Chris Dench