Biber: Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa - La Tempesta
My recording by Patrick Bismuth, who directs this ensemble, who performed Biber's so-called Mystery Sonatas. is among my favorites. I'd call him an eccentric player, at least for the sound he produces, using dynamic shaping and a slow vibrato. Based on that earlier recording, I thought I'd enjoy his reading of Biber's collection of string music.
The collection known as Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa is a set of seven suites for strings. The suites are divided into dance movements, but scored with esoteric combinations of instruments: melody instrument include violins, violas, and violas d'amore. And in many cases Biber calls for scordatura, or mis-tuning to achieve a different sound or aid in the performance. My first recording of this work was from the Purcell Quartet; later recordings include those by the Rare Fruits Council and Musica Antiqua, Köln. The interpretive ideas in this recording are well-worth the effort of the recording and for the time of our listening. Everything from the tempo choice, ornamentation, and the contrast among this music—written in the fantasicus style—is all well-done.
Except I can't recommend it.
The recording is bathed in a wash of so much reverb that listening is both taxing on the ears and marred by seconds of "echo." The recording is so poorly engineered in terms of the reverb that music is all smeared so that all the details are too difficult to hear.
Given proper treatment in a studio without the whitewash of reverb, this would be an excellent recording.
But the acoustical signature to the recording takes away from the ultimate enjoyment of the music. Chamber music performed in a cathedral space is probably also not a good idea for a live audience, either. Having attended a concert of solo violin with continuo in a larger church, the sound is all too familiar, and equally disappointing.
What a shame.