Christina Day Martinson / Martin Pearlman / Boston Baroque

Biber: The Mystery Sonatas

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AllMusic Review by

Heinrich Biber's three groups of Mystery Sonatas correspond to the Catholic Rosary's traditional division into Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries, and these 15 sonatas, closing with a passacaglia, serve as a musical meditation on the Christian story. This Baroque collection was long unknown and only published in 1905, yet in the 21st century the Mystery Sonatas have become a touchstone for virtuoso violinists, not least for the challenges they present in their unusual scordatura tunings, which require the use of several violins in performance. Christina Day Martinson and the Boston Baroque, under the direction of Martin Pearlman, master the difficulties of Biber's inventive and unorthodox music, and achieve a deeply emotional experience that transcends religiosity. Day Martinson manages the tuning problem by using six violins, and plays with a combination of passionate intensity and bravura execution that covers all aspects of the Mystery Sonatas' technical and expressive range. She is joined by Pearlman on organ and harpsichord, Michael Leopold on theorbo and guitar, and Michael Unterman on cello, each giving support throughout, though without making a pronounced impression, allowing the solo violin to stand in high relief. Linn Records provides immaculate sound, which approaches audiophile quality, and Day Martinson has remarkable presence in the well-balanced mix. Highly recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
The Mystery Sonatas
1 5:31
2 4:55
3 6:53
4 8:05
5 7:08
6 8:12
7 9:04
8 6:31
9 7:14
10 9:01
blue highlight denotes track pick