Biber, Schmelzer

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Biber,Schmelzer
LABELS: Chesky
WORKS: Balletti à 4 in G; Balletti à 4 in D; Balleto 1 di zingari in D minor; Arie con la mattacina
PERFORMER: Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor
Biber tercentenary celebrations have, reasonably, favoured the masterworks – the mystical Rosary Sonatas, the deeply expressive Requiem. This disc reveals the workaday Biber, producing genial if slight music for courtly entertainment and dancing. It’s played, very well indeed, by string ensemble, recorder consort with bassoon and organ/harpsichord continuo. The recording is warmed by a church acoustic and is generally well balanced. Frequent dialogues between strings and recorders are charming, alternating whole phrases, then intensifying to a mere fragment of music before the whole ensemble joins forces in a cumulative final sentence. A particular Biber characteristic is the warm sonority of a single violin, two violas and bass, one of several instances of his fertile imagination even in brief dance movements, some barely a minute long. However, to my surprise, it’s Schmelzer who delights most. Dance sequences – balletti – of tiny musical fragments nonetheless teem with ideas. A ciaconna on a popular melody appears in turn for full strings, then viola with pizzicato above, double bass (with which the booklet notes suggest you test the bass response of your hi-fi) and finally organ; some of the sprightliest playing imaginable is an accelerating battle-dance – a mattacina. In all, not so much a feast as a remarkably varied finger-buffet of musical delights. George Pratt