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Cat. No. CHAN 0748 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0748 - Biber: Mensa sonora, seu Musica instrumentalis/ Sonata in A
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Available From: 01 January 2008
Having recorded Biber’s Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa, Sonatae tam aris quam aulis servientes, and the Fidicinium sacro-profanum sonatas to deserved plaudits, The Purcell Quartet here adds Mensa sonora coupled with a Sonata in A major for violin, violone and harpsichord to its recorded catalogue. As Gramophone noted when reviewing Sonatae tam aris, ‘the English group has special things to say about this music: a pure unadulterated pleasure in Biber’s delicious creations’. In this new act of homage Jane Rogers joins the group in the performance of the six suites that make up Mensa sonora.

Biber, whom Paul Hindemith described as one of the most important and original predecessors of Johann Sebastian Bach, is known today mostly for his solo violin music and in particular his cycle of extravagantly virtuoso Mystery sonatas. However, as befits someone who was a Kapellmeister of an important court as well as a virtuoso violinist, Biber did not confine himself to writing music for his own instrument. One of the most original composers of the second half of the seventeenth century, he wrote instrumental ensemble music of various types. The six suites of Mensa sonora are an example of the Austrian master’s genius for variety and innovation. The concept behind the collection (music written as an accompaniment to aristocratic dining) was popular during the baroque period. It was believed to harmonise body, mind, soul, and understanding. Biber dedicated this work to the Archbishop of Salzburg, calling it a ‘noble jewel of harmony’.

The Purcell Quartet adheres to a ‘minimalist’ approach which draws the listener into the textual and rhetorical essence of the music in an intimate and immediate way. They have recorded exclusively for Chandos Records since 1987, having made forty discs of a huge range of music. The critical response has been consistently enthusiastic – Gramophone wrote recently, ‘I am drawn to the sheer beauty and intimacy of the ensemble playing here... A strongly recommended new release’. BBC Music Magazine wrote, ‘The playing is infectiously uninhibited and technically immaculate – a programme of unqualified pleasure’.
Reviews

The excellent Purcell Quartet weight their performances just right: light and, when the notes suit, pensively beautiful. The menu is varied with a meaty violin sonata. I can’t think of a better new CD for banishing the winter blues
The Times

I have, for many years, admired the work of Peter Holman, whose knowledge of early music performance techniques is formidable. His excellent booklet note offers fascinating insights into the musical techniques of Biber’s age, yet it is written in highly accessible language. Listen to this music and I defy you not to get up and dance.
Classic FM

The Purcell Quartet brings Biber’s often highly sophisticated writing to life with grace and vigour. Many of the pieces are dance-orientated and, as with the three captivating Balletti of the Second Suite in F major call us urgently to the dance floor. Comparably appealing are the chaconnes of the Third (A minor) and Sixth (G minor) Suites and the Allamandas of the Fourth (B flat) Suites all of which strike a deeper note. The recorded sound is excellent.
BBC Music Magazine

The Purcell Quartet bring out these and many more facets of the music with playing that’s always lively and sweetly tuned. The many decisions on tempo and character are well taken – even the more surprising ones, such as the very moderate, smooth first Gigue in Suite No. 5, sound entirely convincing in context.
Gramophone

 

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