Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's 'Rosary Sonatas' (or Mystery Sonatas) were written about 1678 and dedicated to his employer the Archbishop of Salzburg. They are really unlike anything else in the violin literature. Scordatura, or unconventional tuning of an instrument's strings, was common enough during the Baroque era, but Biber's cycle of 15 pieces for violin and continuo explores the technique exhaustively: each of the 15 sonatas uses a different tuning.
The result is music of fearsome difficulty for the player and technical complexity generates spiritual intensity. Each sonata represents one of the Mysteries of the Catholic Rosary, which are divided into five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation …), five Sorrowful Mysteries (Christ's crucifixion …), and five Glorious Mysteries (centered on the Resurrection and on Mary's Assumption). As the music reaches its spiritual climax in the "Resurrection" sonata, Biber specifies that the violin be played with its two central strings crossed.
Lina Tur Bonet is one of the most exciting violinists of the younger generation. She is accompanied by her ensemble Musica Alchemica, with which she recently made an enthralling Vivaldi CD (PC10314).