Baroque Chamber Music

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Biber's sonatas

Camaron mentioned these earlier. Been listening to Cordaria's recording of the Mystery Sonatas over the last few days (Signum Classics). Fabulous performances with great variety of continuo instrumentation and superb recorded sound.

 

Nick

Biber's Rosary Sonatas and his Chamber Violin Music.

Biber's "Mystery" or "Rosary" Sonatas is his supreme masterpiece and one of the unique examples of superb virtuosic Violin Chamber works in the whole Baroque era. It contains 16 very demanding sonatas for the Violin with a rich and inventive continuo. Each Sonata tries to recreate the rosary mysteries of Jesus Christ and his Mother, while a magnificent glorious Passacaglia for Solo Violin completes the cycle. Each Sonata uses a different tuning, so that the instrument may express the various stages of joy to sorrow and the glory in the life of Jesus and Virgin Mary.

This pivotal work has been blessed by enough great recordings, recent and older ones. Beyond the one mentioned by 33lp, on Signum, I could mention:

- The 2014 release on Ondine, with the very fine Finish Ensemble Battalia and Violinist Kaakinen-Pilch. Idiomatic, refine and rich in the continuo. Great recording.

- The 2010 release on Coviello, with the specialist in Baroque Daniel Sepec, Hille Perl, Lee Santana and Behringer. Excellent recording and very idiomatic performances but with more standard continuo, albeit always superb.

- The 2008 splendid SACD recording on Arts, with the very fine Violinist Riccardo Minasi and the Bizzarie Armoniche. Very exciting performances!

- An older recording (2004) of H.M. with the always interesting and solid Andrew Manze an Richard Egarr is also worth listening.

However, I found the quite rare, marginal and not known outside the Francophone countries 2013 recording of the specialist Violinst Florence Malgoire and the Ensemble of very fine soloists Les Dominos (with Rannou, Balestracci, Barrault etc.), on the very obscure label Psalmus, as a most satisfying and inspiring one. It is expanded on 3 CDs with an extra bonus of a related DVD, at a very competitive price. It can still be found in French on-line retailers.

Finally, it is expected with great interest the reissue of Arcana of her old (1997) recording with the very dedicated to Baroque music and Biber in particular, namely Gunar Letzbor and the group Ars Antiqua Austria. I have the original recording, which sounds very lively, yet not without its refine moments, as necessary, with a very warm and atmospheric recording and a varied and rich at times continuo.

Letzbor has recorded also the other significant work of Biber, namely the 12 Chamber Sonatas "Fidicinium sacro-profanum", containing works for one or two violins, violas and b.c. It has been released on Challenge, in a double SACD set. He has also recorded, in a double CD, 12 other Violin Sonatas of the same composer, on Pan Classics, in 2011. Very fine, rewarding recordings and performances.

Parla

33lp wrote:Camaron mentioned

33lp wrote:

Camaron mentioned these earlier. Been listening to Cordaria's recording of the Mystery Sonatas over the last few days (Signum Classics). Fabulous performances with great variety of continuo instrumentation and superb recorded sound.

Nick

It is great music Nick, isn't?

I think one of the reasons for its incredible appeal is the extensive use of Stylus Fantasticus, half improvisatory, half declamatory. Mattheson, the famous theorist, described it so:

...the most free and unrestrained manner of composing, singing and playing that one can imagine... all kinds of otherwise unusual progressions, hidden ornaments, ingenious turns and embelishments are brought forth without actual observationof the measure or the key...

This Stylus Fantasticus is, incidentally, used too by Buxtehude in his wonderful trio sonatas I just mentioned.

Since many of the sonatas movements are of the basso ostinato style the contrast is remarkable.

Biber has one other collection of trio sonatas for different combinations and with extensive use of scordatura too: Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa. I don't find them -on the whole- as inspired as the Mystery Sonatas, but there is plenty of good music in them, and just for the Passacaglia and the Ciacona are worth it.

When considering Baroque

When considering Baroque chamber music the prominence of Italian styles (but not necessarily composers) is obvious, chiefly violin solo sonatas with continuo and trio sonatas (two violins and continuo). But the French in the meantime did their own thing, and Rameau provided what is probably the undisputed French masterwork: Pièces de clavecin en concerts.

The original scoring I believe was for harpsichord, violin and viola da gamba, but quite a few other arrangements are possible, with flute, or an all strings ensemble or even just the harpsichord. There are many recordings exploring different possibilities. (I'm sure Parla will provide more information on this).

As opposed to the continuo role of the harpsichord in Italian music, here it is at the core of the music, and the other two instruments are almost subsidiary.

Rameau inspiration was probably Jean Joseph de Mondondville who has himself some very fine collections on the same principle.

In good French fashion Rameau's music is heavily indebted to dances, although these are not usually called so: instead Rameau provides character names.

The music is noble and full of affecting harmonies. For a taster here it is the gorgeous La Livri, from the first concert.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW40UOnLzm0

Hesperion/J. Savall

I'm just wondering if Jordi Savall hadn't taken on a project addressing Baroque Chamber music? He does seem to jump from one period to another in rather large intervals but they've always been wonderful. This may be where the line becomes blurred (at least for me) between a chamber orchestra and a larger ensemble.

goofyfoot

Savall, the great.

Yes, goofyfoot, Savall and his quite inspiring group move in various paths of music that goes beyond Baroque and various genres (Chamber, etc). However, every single release of his is at least worth exploring and, in certain cases, he had done some clear Chamber recordings (his two recordings of Bach's Viola da Gamba Sonatas are some of the very best on record).

Parla

Harmonia Artificiosa.

The "Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa" is another significant set of works of this superb violinst-composer. While this Opus has been served more than few times on record, it has never managed to get the attention it deserves.

The only surviving and, in many ways, the best recording should be the one with Musica Antiqua Koln under Goebel, on Archiv, back from 2004. There are at least another three recordings, out of which I have only one of them, namely the one on Astree with the Rare Fruits Council. The other two were on Bridge with Ensemble Rebel and on Sony with Tafelmusik under Lamon.

Great Opus anyway, particularly if one wishes to indulge in the "Heavy Metal" of Baroque Violin repertory...

Parla

As (if) you wish

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNPIKRYbv04

Obviously 21 minutes nonattainable

Rameau's only (but great) Chamber Music work.

Rameau's "pieces de clavecin en concerts" is the "undisputed French masterwoek" in Baroque Chamber Music. It is, at the same time, the only Chamber Work by the composer.

The original orchestration was for Harpsichord, Violin and a Bass instrument, normally a Viola da Gamba. Obviously, as it was fashionable, the Flute could take the part of the Violin or the Cello of the Viola da Gamba. Of course, the Harpsichord itself can undertake the whole thing. In few cases, two violins or a violin and a flute take the two voices, while a Viola da Gamba (or Cello) joins the harpsichord, in a continuo fashion. A very rare transcription came in 2013 for two Harpsichords, on the marginal French label Maguelone with the Duo Podeur-Bass. Finally, an obscure figure called Mr. Decroix, in 1768, brought to light an edition of this work for larger forces, i.e. in six parts, but not for specific instruments, under the name Six Concerts en Sextuor. Very recently, Ricercar released this version of the work with the Ensemble Les Dominos under the fine violinst Florence Malgoire. The ensemble consists of strings (violins, viola, bass violin with 5 strings and a cello), flutes and piccolos, bassoon and the harpsichord. There have been very few other recordings of this orchestration of Decroix, but, in CD, I trust one has to go no further than this new exciting recording on Ricercar.

For the solo Harpsichord version, I find the one with the very fine Noelle Spieth, in the excellent production of Eloquentia, as the one to go.

For the original one (Violin, Harpsichord and a Bass instrument), my most precious are: a) the classic by now Pinnock, Podger and Manson, on Channel, and the recent one on Alba with some excellent Finnish soloists. Both recordings in demonstration quality SACD format. There are plenty more with the original orchestration, to explore. The very recent one with the ensemble Les Timbres, on Flora, is good enough and in realistic recording. On Simax, C. Mackinstosh, L. Dreyfus and K. Haugsand are fine and in good production as well. The Trio Sonnerie with the excellent violinst Monica Huggett is a very good, but a bit old by now, choice (on the defunct Virgin).

For the Flute choice, I guess one has to rely on the old Rampal, Veyron-Lacroix, Neilz recording (on Nonesuch), still available in e-retailers.

As for the combination of Violin and Flute, I would suggest: a) one of the classic brother Kuijken recordings, on Accent or Telefunken (the latter with Bruggen on the Flute), b) the brilliant recording of the eclectic label Reference with the excellent Baroque Nouveau and c) the very interesting recording of the great Canadian label Atma with the refine harpsichordist Olivier Fortin and the Ensemble Masques.

Finally, there is a very competitive old recording, on HM, with the great Christopher Rousset but with...a Cello and a Bass Viol!

Too much, perhaps, for a single Opus, but, it is an essential and brilliant one for the repertory. It deserves further exploration.

Parla

parla wrote:(his two

parla wrote:

(his two recordings of Bach's Viola da Gamba Sonatas are some of the very best on record).Parla

The first one, which is the one I know, is one of the most astonishing recordings I own.

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