by Daniel Hathaway
Tell your friends you’re headed to a Biber concert and their thoughts will immediately turn to a certain Canadian pop star. There’s another Biber, of course, probably famous only in early music circles, and Apollo’s Fire will treat its audiences to a good chunk of one of his violin masterworks this weekend.
Violinists Carrie Krause, Johanna Novom, Adriane Post, and Karina Schmitz will take turns playing nine of the fifteen virtuosic pieces that make up Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s “Rosary” Sonatas — musical meditations on the five Joyful Mysteries, the five Sorrowful Mysteries, and the five Glorious Mysteries of the life of Christ. Probably written in the 1670s, but unknown to modern ears until first published in 1905, the devotional work is preserved in a beautiful manuscript held in the Bavarian State Library.
The sonatas are pictorial and expressive, but a special feature of the collection is Biber’s requirement that the violin strings be re-tuned for most of the pieces after the first sonata. This practice is called scordatura. “What I love about it is that it changes the resonance of the instrument so much,” Karina Schmitz said in a telephone conversation. [Read more…]