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The term sonata had a fuzzy meaning during much of the Baroque period, usually suggesting little more than that the piece was instrumental. The twelve sonatas on this disk are diverse indeed. Biber's title indicates they are both sacred and secular. Selections are played by six to twelve musicians. The exact number is left to the performers since composers from the era reduced publishing expenses by omitting unessential or doubled parts. Fantasy is the most frequent form (or lack of form), but theme fragments are often carried from one section to the next and we also hear contrapuntal and variation techniques. Tempos and rhythms vary substantially within each work, with no particular pattern from one sonata to the next.

The first sonata makes a rousing start. It's for twelve players including timpani and two trumpets [listen -- track 1, 0:01-1:23]. The Parley of Instruments believes in authentic performance, but with an approach kinder to the modern ear than many. String and brass sounds are full and warm and without the sour sound of some original instrument performances. About half of the sonatas include dance-like sections. This example also suggests something of Biber's violin virtuosity [listen -- track 11, 0:27 -- 1:19].

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Copyright © 9 March 2003 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


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