Biber: Sonatæ Tam Aris, quam Aulis servientes

Harmonie Universelle, Florian Deuter, Mónica Waisman
Accent ACC 24386
It has been some years since a new recording of this set came to the market. It is the first that I have which also includes the trumpet duets, and (I think!) the first that uses a proper church organ in the continuo group. The 12 duos are interspersed (and not in their original order) between groups of the ensemble sonatas, which are played in the printed order. The trumpet playing (by Hans-Martin Rux-Brachtendorf and Astrid Brachtendorf) is excellent throughout. So, too, is the string playing, though I would have liked a little more information about the instruments used; in this repertoire, I don’t think the “violas” should all be the standard instrument we know today, as indicated by the differing clefs, and – rather than a “cello” – I believe that the lowest stringed instrument should be what we’ve come to call a “bass violin”. Without an instrumentarium in the booklet, it is impossible to be sure. The only relevant comment on the scoring concerns which keyboards are appropriate, and doesn’t mention lutes at all… Christoph Sommer – whose name is omitted on the case, but appears in the booklet – does an excellent job of placing chords, but sometimes lets a flourish get the better of him here or there; with only one continuo part-book, how would a theorbist and full church organist managed to share? On that point, I’m sorry that we don’t get to hear more of the organ – the soundscape definitely favours the strings. Of course, that is where the detail of Biber’s endlessly inventive music is. Even so, I would have liked to hear a little more – could some of the pieces not have been played just with organ, and others just with theorbo. Or even, dare I say it, harpsichord? I don’t want to end on a negative, though; this is superb music, superbly played. Don’t miss this recording, even if you already have a rival version!
Brian Clark

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