Musical Exoticism from Biber et Al on Suitable Fiddles

By Kemp, Lindsay | Gramophone, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Musical Exoticism from Biber et Al on Suitable Fiddles


Kemp, Lindsay, Gramophone


'Spicy' '"Exotic" Music for Violin' Biber Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa-Partias III & IV. Sonata violino solo representativa Fux Turcaria, K331AA Schmelzer Die Fechtschule. Sonata, 'Die Turkenschlacht bei Wien 1683'

Les Passions de I'Ame / Meret Luthi vn Deutsche Harmonia Mundi [F] 88883 74874-2 (62' * DDD)

'Austrian baroque music, spiced with oriental exoticness, virtuosity, scordatura, programmatic approaches, dulcimer & percussion, played on violins by Jacobus Stainer.' I quote the cover of this CD because for once it tells you pretty much what you need to know. Here are two old descriptive favourites of this repertoire Johann Schmelzer's Fencing School and the raucous bestiary that is Biber's Sonata representativa--along with two 'Partias' from Biber's collection of retuned trio sonatas Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa and two Turkish excursions: Turcaria by Fux and a battle piece for Viennese and Turks by Schmelzer's son Andreas Anton (well, maybe: bizarrely it's actually an adaptation of 'The Crucifixion' from Biber's Rosary Sonatas).

The Stainer violins sound great, as well they might since Stainer was Biber's own maker of choice. Indeed, it is almost as if having them in their hands has spurred Meret Liithi and her companions to ever greater freedom, for they make a mighty, fruity sound, deliver as boisterous an opening to the Schmelzer as I have heard and cut loose with excitable virtuosity in the Biber pieces.

And what was that about 'dulcimer & percussion'? Prompted presumably by the fact that the Ottomans were practically knocking on Vienna's gates at the time, Les Passions de l'Ame have added Turkish percussion and a dulcimer's silky ring and ping to much of it. …

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