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Biber: Mensa Sonora; Battalia
Chicago's 'stylish and exciting period-instrument group' (Chicago Tribune), Baroque Band presents works by the Bohemian-Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, 'the most important Baroque composer before Bach' ac... more »
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Chicago's 'stylish and exciting period-instrument group' (Chicago Tribune), Baroque Band presents works by the Bohemian-Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, 'the most important Baroque composer before Bach' according to Paul Hindemith, and unquestionably one of the most innovative and influential composers of the second half of the seventeenth century.
Biber's Mensa Sonora (meaning 'Harmonious Table') was music composed for aristocratic dining, though it is anything but superficial background music. The disc closes with the 10-part Battalia for strings, which uses several unique devices for the time: hitting the strings with the wood of the bow, placing paper on the strings of the basses to imitate a snare drum, snap pizzicatos (à la Bartók!), and folk songs rendered simultaneously in eight different keys to portray drunken soldiers.
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Biber's dinner music
Craig M. Zeichner | Brooklyn, NY | 04/14/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you think of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Von Biber (love that name) mostly as a composer of large-scaled polychoral works and gnarly music for solo violin, his Mensa Sonora is going to surprise you. Mensa Sonora, or "sounding table," is a set of instrumental suites or "Pars" for dining - think of the French Symphonies pour les soupers du Roy or Telemann's Tafelmusik and you will get the picture.
While the music is not as challenging as some of Biber's other instrumental suites - Harmonia artificiosa or Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes come to mind - there is plenty of melodic and rhythmic invention that raises the music to something more than Baroque Muzak. The CD is rounded out by Biber's programmatic Battalia, a work filled with such special effects as knocking on the violin in some passages and playing 8 folk songs all in different keys at the same time! It's boozy fun.
The performances are excellent. The Chicago-based Baroque Band eschews the typical one-on-a-part style with a larger ensemble and it serves the larger-scaled passages well. While I prefer the raucous Concentus Musicus Wien performance of Battalia, it's really a treat to hear such a full-bodied performance of the Mensa Sonora.