247

Julia Wedman: Biber - Mystery Sonatas

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Julia Wedman: Biber - Mystery Sonatas Before Perlman, Mutter and Mullova were Grumiaux, Heifetz and Stern. Preceding them were Berwald, Spohr and Paganini, and prior to them were Benda, Cannabich and Stamitz. Predating those composers were Vivaldi, Corelli and Bach. And, finally, before all of them was Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). Biber was the foremost violinist and composer for the violin of the early Baroque period. Of his many violin sonatas, the sixteen so- called "Mystery" or "Rosary" sonatas exist as the pinnacle of his written output. Unpublished at his death, these sonatas remain the most popular of all of Biber's considerable output.

The popularity of these pieces is supported by their recording history in the past 25 years. Notable recordings of the "Mystery Sonatas" include those by Goebel, Musica Antiqua, Koln (Archiv, 1991), Lautenbacher, et al. (Vox Box, 1996), Davitt Moroney and Tragicomedy (Veritas, 2002) and Andrew Manse (Harmonia Mundi, 2004). This set is by Canadian Baroque specialist Julia Wedman, and what a youthful tour de force it is.

Wedman is a member of several notable Canadian ensembles, including Tafelmusick, The Knights, the Ebyler String Quartet and I Furiosi. She has had an exponential rise in attention and popularity, over the past number of years, because of her association with these groups and this new solo outing can do nothing but bolster her already rapid ascent.

Biber conceived these sonatas as meditations on the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the Roman Catholic Rosary. A deeply spiritual man, Biber imbued these compositions with the requirement of a high level of musical accomplishment to match their spiritual exigence. Biber accomplished this with his deliberate and thoughtful composing. Only the first and last sonatas are composed for the violin in standard tuning (G-D-A-E). The remaining 14 sonatas employ various degrees of scordatura (or cross-tuning, not unlike what is done with slide guitar). This tuning technique allows for otherwise impossible note sequences to be played. The effect is one of sharpening, and giving greater definition to the performed pieces.

Wedman, joined by I Furiosi cellist Felix Deak, Tafelmusic keyboardist Charlotte Nediger, harpist Julia Seager Scott and theorboist Lucas Harris, produces an amazingly warm and modern performance of the pieces, one universally well-defined with a prism's precision. Wedman's navigation of Biber's tricky double-stops lend the necessary drama to these Baroque prayers. Nediger's harpsichord is crisp, without being harsh like earlier period instrument recordings. Her organ sound is ancient and stately on Sonata No. 5 "Finding the 12-year Old Jesus in the Temple," and Sonata No. 15 "The Coronation of Mary in Heaven."

The continuo is provided by cellist Deak who rises to the challenge, alternating between Baroque cello and viola da gamba. It is the continuo that provides the unifying drone in small ensemble Baroque playing, serving to flesh out the silent parts and give gravity to the more complex sections. The sum of effects is one of throwing open the windows and airing these pieces out, effectively instilling a compelling vibrancy and character fit for such spiritual considerations.


Track Listing: CD1: The Joyful Mysteries: Sonata No. 1 "The Annunciation;" Sonata No. 2 "The Visitation;" Sonata No.3 "The Nativity;" Sonata No. 4 "The Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple;" Sonata No. 5 "Finding the 12-year Old Jesus in the Temple." The Sorrowful Mysteries: Sonata No. 6 "The Agony in the Garden;" Sonata No. 7 "The Scourging at the Pillar;" Sonata No.8 "The Crowning with Thorns;" Sonata No. 9 "Jesus Carrying the Cross;" Sonata No. 10 "The Crucifixion." CD2: The Glorious Mysteries: Sonata No. 11 "The Resurrection;" Sonata No. 12 "The Ascension;" Sonata No. 13 "Pentecost;" Sonata No. 14 "The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven;" Sonata No. 15 "The Coronation of Mary in Heaven."

Personnel: Julia Wedman: violin (Hendrick Jacobs, Amsterdam, 1694); Felix Deak: cello, viola de gamba; Lucas Harris: theorbo, archlute; Charlotte Nediger: organ, harpsicord; Julia Seager Scott: harp.

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sono Luminus


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Live in Seattle" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Seattle
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 25, 2016
Read "Resolution" CD/LP/Track Review Resolution
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 15, 2016
Read "Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 28, 2017
Read "Natural" CD/LP/Track Review Natural
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: May 7, 2016
Read "Happy" CD/LP/Track Review Happy
by Budd Kopman
Published: April 29, 2016
Read "Flux" CD/LP/Track Review Flux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 18, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!