Magazine article Strings

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas/Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor

Magazine article Strings

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas/Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor

Article excerpt

Biber: The Rosary Sonatas. Andrew Manze, violin; Richard Egarr, organ and harpsichord (Harmonia Mundi, 907321-22).

Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor. Andrew Manze, violin, conducting the English Concert (Harmonia Mundi, 907332).

Magnificent Manze

The superstar of Baroque violin shines on new Biber and Vivaldi discs

BRITISH VIOLINIST ANDREW MANZE is celebrated, perhaps even "notorious, for virtuosically flamboyant cadenzas and ornaments that would surely have made even the Baroque master violinists jealous. Yet ifor all his musical daring, Manze is also a violinist of sensitivity and intelligence, and his two most recent recordings are the best showcase thus far of Manze as a "complete" musician.

Some Catholics have bumper stickers urging us to pray the rosary. Well, violinists can play the rosary. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's "Rosary" or "Mystery" Sonatas are linked to 15 key moments in the lives of Mary and Jesus, from the Annunciation through the Crucifixion and on to "The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth." You could follow the action on your rosary beads if your fingers didn't ache in sympathy with what the violinist must go through. And it's not just that the player encounters difficult moments; the violin itself is stressed by Biber's use of scordatura, in this instance, 15 different systems of retiming the strings to facilitate playing unusual chords and to change the color of the instrument's tone.

Manze refuses to impose sound effects into his playing-no fluttering angel wings, no nails hammered into the cross. Biber's notes are quite enough for him, which is not to say that he doesn't play with his typical freedom and vigor; at times, we seem to be in the middle of a two-and-a-quarter-hour cadenza. …

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