music of the week (month, haha) – Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Sonata representativa for violino solo

by ada

Well, it was quite a time since my last music post, but blogging becomes somewhat difficult in the lack of own internet connection.

I was really tempted to put some Mozart here but it would be only too obvious. Luckily the Salzburger Hof always served as a center of music, so there are plenty of composers to choose from. Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern was a very famous composer and violin virtuoso of his time, and got quite unjustly forgotten. Now he is only known in early music and musicology circles. If I mention Mozart, the average people go Oooohh!!!; if I mention Biber, the usual reaction is only some Heh? (if not something like Oh, Justin is sooo cuuute! which makes me want to kill everybody around me).

Again I was tempted to show one of the Mysterien– or Rosenkranz-Sonaten (Rosary Sonatas), as The Work of Biber, but he composed so many other music that are worth for listening, that it was really easy to resist this temptation. I chose the Sonata representativa (Representatio Avium) instead, which is a funny piece that mimics animal sounds. All the animals and their musical manifestations are taken from Athanasius Kircher’s famous music treatise, Musurgia universalis, published in 1650. If you are interested in such obscure musical ideas of the 17th century as how to play piano with cats’ tails or how to compose music with logarithms (well, Kircher could easily be considered as the first composer of computer music, haha), or just want to know why do parrots say hello in ancient Hebrew, I really recommend you to read this book. It’s written in Latin but, being the bestseller of the era, was (partly) translated to German as soon as in 1662. Kircher himself gained an enormous popularity through writing this compendium, he received emotionally loaded fan letters from enthusiastic nuns from all over the world. I don’t know if Biber ever met him but it’s clear that he read and appreciated his book.

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