Biber: Rosenkranz Sonaten – volumes 2 & 3

Anne Schumann violin, Sebastian Knebel Rommel organ (Kaltenlengsfeld)
45:10
Querstand VKJK 1506
Sonatas 6-10, Pachelbel: Ciacona ex d

Anne Schumann violin, Sebastian Knebel Trost organ (Waltershausen)
63:09
Querstand VKJK 1506
Sonatas 11-16, Buxtehude: Ciacona in e, BuxWV160

These two recordings conclude Anne Schumann’s exploration of Biber’s marvellous sonatas for scordatura violin in which the continuo part is realised solely on church organs of the period. The “direct and almost unrelenting sound” of Kaltenlangsfeld’s Rommel organ was thought most suitable for the sorrowful mysteries on disc 2, while the glorious mysteries are accompanied on the Trost organ in Waltershausen. In both cases the recording balance favours the keyboard instrument, but not to the same extent as I experienced with the first release of the set. If Anne Schumann sounds distant in the solo Passagalia, it is because she played it in one of the loftier boxes to tie in with the composer’s dedicating it to a guardian angel. This is a performance of real strength and depth: I have never heard the rapid chains of octaves played so clearly – like bells pealing. Elsewhere there were moments of genuine discovery (as I believe there always should be when artists record repertoire that is so well know) – the martial intrada of Sonata XII with its bare harmonies and strident colours raised the hairs on the back of my neck. In the booklet note to volume 3, Anne Schumann reveals that she used three violins for the project to accommodate the testing scordatura settings (especially difficult at high pitch); when she wrote down which ones she had used for which set of sonatas, she discovered the same pattern in 12321 for the first two sets of mysteries, then a different one for the third (223311) – something for number symbolists to get excited about. Like the first volume, these two discs being with the church bells.

Brian Clark