Biber/Muffat

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Biber/Muffat
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Sonatas from Sonatae tam Aris, quam Aulis servientes; Sonatas from Armonico tributo cioè sonate di camera
PERFORMER: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra Consort
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77303 2 DDD
Biber’s violin pyrotechnics and scordatura tunings, familiar from his Mystery Sonatas, find little place in this selection of five chamber works from his 1676 collection, Sonatae tam Aris, quam Aulis servientes, but the fantastical nature of his musical personality is everywhere evident. Even now they sound surprisingly modern. Each, cast in a single movement lasting about five minutes, unfolds a network of free association almost Freudian in its abrupt changes of direction and range of expression, from bucolic dance to tender plaint. Amazingly the fragmentary nature of Biber’s thought never leads to any lack of coherence. Each is a mini-compendium of Baroque Affekte, bursting with lively invention and bound together by a typically Germanic feeling for larger perspectives.

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By comparison Georg Muffat, Biber’s contemporary, seems positively expansive. The two sonatas from his Armonico tributo coiè sonate di camera of 1682 follow a more traditional though never predictable multi-movement design. Highlights include an eloquent Sarabande with a disorientingly martial middle section and a magnificent Passacaglia of almost symphonic intensity and proportions.

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Excellent playing from the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra Consort, as responsive to Biber’s explosive little packets as to Muffat’s more extended discourses, is marred only by a slightly too close recording. More please. Antony Bye