Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Notes and Commentary

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. He is regarded as one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument.

“In the 17th century, the violin consolidated its position as expressively the most wide-ranging of non-keyboard instruments. This was an age of outstanding performers, like Corelli. Italy was the center of instrumental prowess, but the finest of all virtuosos was Heinrich Biber. A composer as well as a performer, Biber was fascinated by the doctrine of the affections: the belief that emotional states such as tenderness, fear, and anger could be given direct musical expression. Many Baroque composers pursued this idea but none did so with such a degree of quirkiness, flair, and sheer experimental verve as Biber. Above all else in his violin sonatas, he reveals an astonishing combination of profound feeling and technical wizardry that suggests a brilliant improviser at work.”—The Rough Guide to Classical Music (2001, 3rd ed.) 

Biber’s technique allowed him to easily reach the 6th and 7th positions, employ multiple stops in intricate polyphonic passages, and explore the various possibilities of scordatura tuning. He also wrote one of the earliest known pieces for solo violin, the monumental passacaglia of the Mystery Sonatas. During Biber’s lifetime, his music was known and imitated throughout Europe. In the late 18th century he was named the best violin composer of the 17th century by music historian Charles Burney. In the late 20th century Biber’s music, especially the Mystery Sonatas, enjoyed a renaissance. Today, it is widely performed and recorded. He lived from August 12, 1644, to May 3, 1704.—Excerpted from Wikipedia

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