Biber, Muffat

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COMPOSERS: Biber,Muffat
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Sonatae Violino solo 1681 (excerpts); Sonata in A minor (Victori der Christen); Sonata in D
PERFORMER: John Holloway (violin), Aloysia Assenbaum (organ), Lars Ulrik Mortensen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 472 432-2
Readers have had to wait over two years, in my own case eagerly, for this second instalment of John Holloway’s survey of solo violin music by Biber. The substance of the two discs is contained in Biber’s highly original set of Eight Sonatas for violin and continuo, which were published simultaneously in Salzburg and Nuremberg in 1681. The new release includes the First, Second, Fifth and Eighth Sonatas of the set as well as a manuscript sonata which to some extent depicts the Turkish assault on Vienna in 1683. Though it is Biber’s older Austrian contemporary, Schmelzer, whose name appears on the manuscript, the music is unquestionably by Biber and may be quickly recognised as deriving from one of his Mystery Sonatas (see above). The remaining piece is a finely crafted Sonata by another important contemporary, Georg Muffat. Its noble opening, followed by a well sustained fugal Allegro and a harmonically striking, centrally placed Adagio make it a worthy companion to the Biber Sonatas. Holloway is very much at home with the developing and sometimes, as here, startlingly original idiom of 17th-century violin music. This volume, in common with the earlier one (reviewed November 2002) confirms the stylish and virtuosic way in which he is able to bring this exhilarating music to life. Recorded just over a year after Vol. 1, this release shows his playing to have acquired a refinement sometimes absent from the other. And his sympathetic continuo players are praiseworthy throughout. Nicholas Anderson

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