Unconventional Baroque Music (Instrumental)

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)

Il Giardino Armonico
Teldec 3984-21464-2
Recorded in 1998 at Hamburg, Germany
Baroque atonal music
Subtitled "the dissolute revelling of musketeers, march, the battle, and lamento of the wounded, imitated with airs and dedicated to Bacchus by H. Biber, 1673, string orchestra for 3 violin, 4 viol., 2 violone and 1 cembalo

Biber spent most of his life at the court of the archbishop of Salzburg, rising from a humble position to that of high steward and musical director (1676). Biber's son, Carl Heinrich was the superior of Mozart's father, Leopold in Salzburg. In Battalia, gunfire and drunken soldiers are imitated only by strings with such advanced use of "col legno" (hitting the strings with the back of the bow) and pizzicato in addition to even more unusual technique of violone (double bass) playing in the "marsch": the player puts a piece of paper between the strings and hits them with the bow, imitating a military drum. The Battalia ends tragically, that's quite unusual for that time.

"Is it really a Baroque music?!" That was my first comment when I was introduced to Battalia by my musical mentor. It resembles 20 century atonal music than anything written over 300 years ago. The CD also includes more light-hearted piece, Sonata violino solo representative where bird, animal and human activities are expressed ingeniously by solo violin and basso continuo only. His another masterpiece, Rosary Sonatas (or Mystery Sonata), is a showpiece for yet another novel technique extensively used by Biber; "scordatura" (abnormal tuning) to provide different sonorities and unusual chordal effects while allowing violin players to play the parts which would be otherwise unplayable. The resulting sonata has a very different tonality than more conventional Baroque sonatas.

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704)
Sonatae tam aris, quam aulis servientes

Kraemer, Rare Fruits Council
Naive Astree (Fance) 128630
Recorded 1999
Impossible note to play (1)
Among the dozen of sonatas presented here, the piece of interest is "Sonata X in G minor for trumpet, violin, 2 violas, cello, and chamber organ". The most characteristic note in this scale, the B flat, is an impossible note to play on the Natural trumpet (the corresponding overtone lies between B and B flat). It is fascinating to observe how the trumpet player works around with the "false" tone.

Biber seemed to get the idea of this unusual scale for the trumpet sonata from his friend and colleague, Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky (see below). This is a prime example where use of the modern instrument kills the whole idea of the composer's intention since a contemporary trumpet has no problem for B flat, the whole idea is lost along with a pure brilliant sound of a valveless counterpart.

Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky (1633/39-1693)
Music for Trumpet and Strings

Ars Antiquan Austria
Symphonia (Italy) SY96151
Recorded 1997
Impossible note to play (2)
Although the liner note does not specifically mentions, track 25 "Sonata a 4" is the G minor trumpet sonata in question. Ars Antiqua under Gunar Letzbour uses natural trumpet in this recording. Compared with a modern rendation such as one from Hanssler Classics (98905), a timbre of trumpet is highy pure and clearer if not accurate.
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