Biber: Mensa Sonora seu musica instrumentalis; Violin Sonata in A

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Mensa Sonora seu musica instrumentalis; Violin Sonata in A
PERFORMER: Jane Rogers (viola); Purcell Quartet
Biber’s Mensa Sonora, dedicated in 1680 to Max Gandolph, Archbishop of Salzburg, to whom he had been appointed vice-Kapellmeister, is a six-part anthology conforming by-and-large with a mixed pattern of suite and chamber sonata. It is scored for a small ensemble of violins, viola and basso continuo, one to a part in this recording by the Purcell Quartet which also includes a warmly expressive Violin Sonata in A major performed stylishly by soloist Catherine Mackintosh.


A rewarding dimension of Mensa Sonora is to be found in its inner part-writing, sustained in the present performances by a second violin and viola rather than the two violas sometimes preferred. The Purcell Quartet bring Biber’s often highly sophisticated writing to life with grace and vigour. Many of the pieces are dance-orientated and, as with the three captivating Balletti of the Second Suite in F major, call us urgently to the dance floor. Comparably appealing are the chaconnes of the Third (A minor) and Sixth (G minor) Suites and the Allamandas of the First (D major) and Fourth (B flat) Suites all of which strike a deeper note. The recorded sound is excellent.