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Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber

August 12, 1644 - May 3, 1704
born in Wartenberg, Bohemia, composed during the Baroque period
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber may have been the finest violinist of the seventeenth century. He was also a highly innovative composer whose works -- most notably his sonatas for violin -- are gaining new prominence in the performing repertory.

Biber was born in the Bohemian town of Wartenberg (now in the Czech Republic). Little is known of his background or education, although he is believed to have studied in Vienna with the eminent German violinist Johann Heinrich Schmelzer. He began his career playing violin and gamba in the aristocratic courts of Moravia, and is known to have assumed a post in the band belonging to Count Karl of Liechtenstein-Castelcorno at Kromeriz. In 1670, he abandoned this position without permission, and joined the Kapelle in Salzburg, being named Kapellmeister there in 1684. His brilliance and virtuosity on the violin made Biber one of the most renowned soloists in Europe, and in 1690 Emperor Leopold I added the aristocratic prefix "von" to his name. He died at age 59 in Salzburg.

Biber's compositions stand as some of the most startlingly advanced music of the Baroque era. Biber's manuscripts and publications record violin improvisations in unprecedented detail; in his Sonata Representativa, one will find Biber's instrumental impressions of cuckoos, frogs, cats, and marching musketeers. These are supplied with a simple ground bass that provides plenty of room for the soloist to stretch out and show off, but are written at such a high level of difficulty that few violinists attempt to master them. In his "Mystery", or "Rosenkranz" sonatas, Biber makes extensive use of scordatura, violin re-tunings that change the tonal character of the instrument and make "impossible" figurations possible.

Biber was clearly influenced by the Musurgia Universalis, a theoretical work written by German Jesuit scientist and mathematician Athanasius Kircher. First published in 1650, Kircher draws parallels between musical tones, planetary motion, and psychological states of being. Biber's music is strongly affective emotionally, and in works of a programmatic character, such as his orchestral piece Battalia, he attempts to combine both a literal and subjective listening experience. In Battalia, the orchestra is required to play several marching songs in different keys at once -- in a manner similar to the music of Charles Ives -- to indicate eager soldiers of various regiments leading off to battle. A soft, hushed passage at the end of the work represents the result, a somber tableau of battlefield dead.

Biber also composed a number of sacred vocal works; most of these reside easily within the required strictures of the Church. A standout piece is his 15-part requiem, an expressive and harmonically adventurous mass that eschews the sobriety of the text in favor of glorious antiphonal choral textures. Along those same lines, musicologists have established that the anonymous, huge 53-part Missa Salisburgensis is also likely the work of von Biber. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Biber Harmonia Artificiosa

Disc 1
Title: Harmonia Artificiosa-ariosa (7), Partitas For Strings & Continuo, C. 62-68
Disc 2
x

Track List: Biber: The Mystery Sonatas

Disc 1
Title: Mystery Sonatas (16), For Violin & Basso Continuo (or Solo Violin), C. 90-105
Disc 2
x

Track List: Biber: Violin Sonatas

Disc 1
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 1 In A Major (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 1), C. 138
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 2 In D Minor (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 2), C. 139
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 3 In F Major (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 3), C. 140
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 4 In D Major (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 4), C. 141
Title: Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata), For Violin Solo In G Minor (Standard Tuning), C. 105
Title: Sonata Violino Solo Representativa (Representatio Avium), For Violin & Continuo In A Major, C. 146 (B. IV 184)
Disc 2
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 5 In E Minor (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 5), C. 142
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 6 In C Minor (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 6), C. 143
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 7 In G Minor (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 7), C. 144
Title: Sonata For Violin & Continuo No. 8 In G Major (Sonatae Violino Solo No. 8), C. 145
Title: Pastorella, Sonata For Violin & Continuo In A Major, C. 106
Title: Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata), For Violin Solo In G Minor (Standard Tuning), C. 105
x

Track List: Requiem a 15 in Concerto / Battalia a 10

Title: Battalia, For 3 Violins, 4 Violas, 2 Violini & Keyboard In D Major, C. 61 (B. XIV 122)
Title: Requiem À 15, For Solo Voices, Chorus, Orchestra & Continuo, C. 7

Comments

wcdyouyou - total Snatch reference. Well played.
Heinie was so ornery, he once shot a man in his sleep -- and that was just for snoring too loud!
I'm a Beliber!!!! BIBER FOREVER!!!!! lol jk
ilunga.mpoyo
Such a long name. I enjoy his Mystery Sonata, it has a refreshing quality to it.
skyee.kuang
触动心弦的旋律和演奏.. . .
I've got Biber Fever!
tleith51
I'm not expert by any means, but parts of this sound a lot like Glass's Violin Concerto. I wonder if Glass was thinking of Biber when he wrote it.
msumlvn
Gorgeous originality. Thank you for playing so much relatively unfamiliar music. Sophia Melvin
tedsandyman0 1
I love Biber's music hes soooo hototottot heeeeeeeeee <3333

he loks difrent in this picture thougH?????? ? ? ? ? OMG Is that him?????????
jenny.trimar k
nice hairdu

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