Saturday, April 23, 2011

Biber - Violin Sonatas from the Kremsier Archive - Steck, Rieger







Heinrich Biber’s Mystery Sonatas may have brought the composer to the attention of academics, especially for their thoroughgoing and imaginative exploration of scordatura, but during the last decade, many musicians have begun exploring the sonatas of 1681 as well. Anton Steck’s collection begins on familiar ground, but soon disappears in the wilds of Anton Steck less frequently explored repertoire. But the less familiar sonatas, like the one in E Major and the Ciacona in D Major, feature the same exuberantly fleet figuration that sparkles through the Mysteries and the 1681 sonatas. Steck and his ensemble make much of the creative possibilities of the music, the piquant timbres of Steck’s 1701 Alessandro Gagliano and a copy of Paganini’s Cannon by Tilman Muthesius sound titillating rather than merely eccentric or quizzical—they communicate in themselves rather than simply serve as means of communication. And Steck’s virtuosity (notable in the Ciacona) sounds so breathtaking at times as to remind listeners, as no mere biography could, that Biber himself had been a formidable virtuoso and, presumably, just as highly creative in his role as performer as he must have been as a composer. Of course, if the ensemble didn’t share Steck’s robust vision of Biber’s works, and if the engineers (at least in the CD format, which I auditioned) hadn’t preserved the bright tonal highlights showered by their thumping rhythmic verve, some of the collection’s appeal might have been lost. Strongly recommended to Biber aficionados for the rarity of the repertoire and, just as urgently, to general listeners, who can respond directly and immediately to the ensemble’s tangy advocacy. 


flac, scans

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