The featured work this week was “lost,” (actually, unknown) for almost 230 years. Austrian composer and violinist Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber was born in 1644, and he revolutionized the playing of the violin. His most well-known work was not discovered until 1905! Biber literally ‘stretched’ the possibilities, both of the performers and the instruments, of his day. This composition requires scordatura tuning – the strings are crossed or stretched to provide a different tuning and allows the instrument to play unusual sounds.
Biber chose these unusual sounds to depict the story of Christ’s life. His “Mystery Sonatas” are sixteen movements, organized into three parts: three types of mysteries.
- The Joyful Mysteries – The Annunciation (in standard tuning), The Visitation, The Nativity, The presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple, The Twelve Year Old Jesus.
- The Sorrowful Mysteries – Christ on the Mount of Olives, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crown of Thorns, Jesus Carries the Cross, The Crucifixion.
III. The Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection, The Ascension, Pentecost, The Assumption of the Virgin, The Beatification of the Virgin, Passacaglia (in standard tuning).
The season of Easter is designed to remind us, as a community, that the resurrection and the final events of Christ’s earthly presence are entirely a mystery. This music, and the other Baroque selections, transport us to a different world, a sound-world that welcome us into the foundational truth-mystery of our faith:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
The first selections in this playlist are arranged for guitar – I find these mesmerizing. The second recording is the full set of sonatas, for violin and continuo.