I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Biber: Sonatas from the Kremsier Archive

Biber: Violin Sonatas performed by Anton Steck et al., on CPO. Anton Steck performs Biber Yes, I am a Fan of Biber. But my interaction with Biber's music came long after I "found" my niche in the baroque. Ever since, I've been looking for good recordings and some are obviously better than others. Steck and company play my style, with some verve and "guts." Even a little sex thrown in, if you get imaginative. First, I must report that the recorded sound quality begs for something better: the sound is a tad thin. It's not the players, it's the recording.. thin and distant. My guess is they used microphones that I don't care for. So, with that major disappointment aside, the music... interpretation is mostly agreeable. The most famous work, the first track from Biber's 1681 collection, shows-off what's here to love and perhaps not (love). Three continuo players make for variety. Steck plays with verve and soul, however the plucked continuo sometimes almost sounds like a child's instrument is being used. Yes, the recording suffers that badly. As we progress through the CD, however, the sound warms up. The depth of nuance Steck plays with reminds me of the MAK recording of Die Kunst der Fuge by Bach... the dynamics just aren't off/on, they are manifest through swells in line and energy, that seems at once organic, if not at times, rushed. The remainder of Biber's works are less well-known, and then they tack-on the infamous Muffat sonata. Annoyances? Steck sometimes uses a rather fast vibrato as a ornament. I don't care for its speed. Sometimes Rieger adjusts the harpsichord to a lute stop... something in my head tells me Biber et al. weren't doing this. Eh. Sometimes, you don't need all 3 continuo players. Sometimes it's nice to have one on one sonata, a couple on another. Variety is the spice of life. Spice doesn't overwhelm when used in moderation. Complaints aside, I enjoy this recording. More Biber, the better. And it's here in the hands of sympathetic musicians who (as in the Biber D-major ciconna) know how to impress with technique. Then there's that Muffat sonata. It's nice and all, but I've grown tired of it. Steck plays with considerable warmth (in part with a lusty-sounding instrument, and in another, way with an intense vibrato). The recording would only have been better with more "warmth" in the sound. Rieger and Steck are dead-on with one another in this work, but take the enharmonic progression carefully. Probably better traversed than Holloway in his two readings, but then there's that creepy fast vibrato creeping in. In all, this is not a perfect disc, and I can't recommend it without some reservations. If you have SACD, it's a hybrid disc that perhaps sounds better in SACD. Second, some areas feel rushed. Steck plays impeccably when it's fast... but breathing room here and there would be welcome. The music is certainly inventive and affective. It's an honest recording, one that would have been golden with a better recording.

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