Quote of the Week: It’s Biber Fever!
July 22, 2011
— art music, biber, education, instrumental music, music, music education, steven speciale, teaching, violin
“At the heart of Biber’s music is unpredictability. His constant inventiveness produces music which, but for the fact that it exists on the printed page, might have been improvised straight into a baroque tape-recorder.”
-Andrew Manze, baroque violinist
During his lifetime Biber certainly acquired a very thorough knowledge of what was be composed for and experimented on the violin by composers north of the Alps, where a distinctive style of composition was being developed, a style very different from their Italian counterparts. The innovations and characteristics of this style were: the progressive sliding upward to the 7th position, special bowing (bariolage, arpeggio, bow vibrato, staccato), the use of descriptive effect, scordaturas, double notes, the extensive use of the form of variation with many passaggi, runs, fast arpeggios, to mention a few.
Heinrich Biber (1644-1704) was a bohemian composer of the early Baroque. Biber is one of the most important violin composers. His playing technique allowed him to easily reach the 6th and 7th positions, employ multiple stops in intricate polyphonic passages, and explore the various possibilities of scordatura tuning. He also wrote one of the earliest solo violin works: the passacaglia from the Mystery Sonatas as seen in the above YouTube video.
Biber’s music is intensely personal, virtuosic, and poetic. While the example I have posted here is intimate, he was capable of extraordinary extravagance. His Missa Salzburgenesis, a polychoral mass, was written for some seven choirs of singers and instruments in fifty-three parts!