The Rosary Sonatas not only deal with mysteries, they are a mystery themselves. With this violin cycle made up of fifteen sonatas and a solo passacaglia, Biber created one of the most astonishing works of the entire violin repertoire. Famous and even today not completely decrypted in terms of its significance is the assignment of the sonatas to the sacred Christian mysteries. In this work, the composer carries to the extreme the scordatura technique, the tuning of the violin’s four strings to intervals other than those usual, and in this manner demands constant concentration from the performer.
For the French violinist Hélène Schmitt, the Rosary Sonatas are nevertheless not merely a violinistic extreme sport – on the contrary, for her this work is a musical act of faith. In her performance, an enormous sonic cosmos opens up in the sonatas: singing or also speaking, whispering, even roaring, urgent or dulcet, intimate or with large gestures, from hardly audible sound to pure heavy metal, or entirely simple in duple time for the many dance movements – the listener will not ceased to be astonished.
Hélène Schmitt’s full devotion to this music is obvious. Her continuo group made up of internationally known performers is able to provide exactly the right support and timbres. Two extensive accompanying texts, authored by the artist and by Prof. Peter Wollny (Bach Archive, Leipzig), respectively, illuminate the work and performance from all sides. The audiophile recording made in the Baroque church in Holthausen provides stereo and also, with SuperAudioCD, surround sound.
Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz: The Rosary Sonatas