It was a joy and privilege never to be forgotten, to perform and record these sonatas in the Propstei St. Gerold which is a place in this world that really manages to connect heaven and earth and to induce in people a new kind of listening to their inner spiritual self and to each other.
Special thanks go to Father Nathanael for his support and inspirational presence.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber dedicated the Mystery Sonatas to Archbishop Maximilian Gandolph von Khuenburg with the following words: “Here you will hear my four stringed violin using different kinds of tunings [scordature] in various Sonatas, Preludes, Allemandes, Courantes, Sarabandes, Arias, Chacones, Variations, with basso continuo, composed with the greatest care and, so far as my small capability allows, with my best artistic skill. If you want to know the reason for this number, it is this: I have devoted the whole to the honour of the XV sacred Mysteries, which you support so ardently.”
They were conceived in all likelihood to accompany the rosary devotions in Salzburg and to be meditations in the traditional sense of Catholic Mysticism. Today they reach yet another level of spirituality since in performance the magical communication with the audience adds an extra degree of insight into the emotional and religious depths of these pieces.
Even when played just with our duo of baroque violin and double bass we have had the most intense experiences with audiences within a wide range of festivals from old music events to Contemporary Music and even Avant-garde Jazz Festivals.
The continuo group chosen for this recording allows us to bring out a wide variety of colours and illustrate closely the rapid emotional changes within the music. At this point I wish to thank my colleagues for their immense support, wonderful creativity and the ingenious way in which they reacted with great improvisational freedom to the many deeply involving images of the Rosary.
The inclusion of the double bass is an homage to the many amazing occasions the two of us have shared over the years performing some of these sonatas as a duo, but I also feel that the 16 foot register provides the extra depth and earth bound dimension which balances the moments when the music seems to soar weightlessly into heaven.
I have a great respect for the many extremely varied solutions to the continuo part and individual interpretations by my violin colleagues all over the world. The huge variety of approaches and their intensity also proves how close these sonatas are to everybody’s heart, and how deeply committed we all are to do them justice. In a similar way to Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas the Mystery Sonatas of Biber are with a violinist for a lifetime and constantly develop and change with our own personal growth and also through the two-way communication with audiences.