Biber - Rosary Sonatas
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Label: Channel Classics
Cat No: CCSSA37315
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 16th October 2015
ArtistsRachel Podger (violin)
Marcin Swiatkiewicz (harpsichord, organ)
Jonathan Manson (cello, viola da gamba)
David Miller (theorbo, archlute)
The Rosary (Mystery) Sonatas, even today, are considered the most extensive example of scordatura. From the Italian discordare meaning ‘out of tune’, scordatura is a technique whereby the strings are purposefully tuned differently from their usual arrangement. Here the usual G-D-A-E tuning, where the violin strings are consistently a perfect fifth apart, is only used for the opening Sonata and the closing Passacaglia. The other fourteen sonatas each have a different configuration of tuning. Compositionally this allowed Biber to obtain unusual chords, opening up a whole new spectrum of harmonic and textural possibilities. This fundamentally altered what a violin was and could be - its physicality as well as its voice was transformed.
"When performing a selection of these sonatas in concert I found it less taxing on the audience (and me!) to use a number of violins and tune them as I went along, so that the new tuning could settle on one violin whilst I played on another. For the recording I was convinced I needed to use my own violin for all of them. This is because I felt I could get the best out of my first-choice violin but also because it was fascinating to witness the changes it went through during the cycle. As Mark Seow describes in his note, the violin ‘suffers’, and in my case, so much so that the piece of tail gut (which is the thick piece of gut connecting the tail piece to the button on the bottom side of the instrument holding the tension of the strings in place) started to fray and look dangerously worn and so had to be replaced in the middle of the recording!" - Rachel Podger
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