Warm, Relaxed Biber
M. De Sapio | Alexandria, VA | 12/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With HARMONIA ARTIFICIOSO-ARIOSA Heinrich Biber produced a valedictory of his art. The work consists of seven "partias" (suites) for various trio-sonata formations (mostly two violins and continuo), all but one of them using scordatura (unconventional tuning - perhaps this is one meaning of the word "artificioso" in Biber's fanciful Latin title). The persistent double stopping yields a texture so rich and opulent that at times you could swear a whole consort of strings is playing. All the hallmarks of Biber's style are here in abundance: melodic fertility, contrapuntal genius, and rhythmic playfulness, as well as a distinctly Biberesque earthy humor. It is a true musical feast.
The ensemble Tafelmusik plays with intimacy and understatement, creating an ambience of relaxed chamber music-making which brings to mind Dutch baroque domestic genre paintings. One could hardly imagine a more elegant, unforced rendition, nor a more warmly captured set of baroque instruments. Track 16 (the concluding Ciacona of the A major Partia) is a standout: the soloists seem to be in some sort of inspired trance. Perhaps something could have been done acoustically to enhance the antiphonal effect between the two treble instruments; but I am not an acoustical expert, and I doubt that other recordings of this Biber opus have any edge in this respect.
[Unfathomably, this wonderful recording seems no longer to be in print. Get a used copy while they're still left!]