Virtuoso Baroque Violin

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norfolk and Norwich Festival event at the King of Hearts, Norwich


This recital was designed to showcase the extraordinary instrumental achievement of Heinrich Biber. A 17th-century Bohemian musician, he was, three generations before Mozart, one of the glories of that great cultural centre, Salzburg.

Biber's work was presented by Pavlo Beznosiuk, a virtuoso violinist with a relaxed platform manner. He was admirably supported on the harpsichord and the little organ by David Roblou and on the long-necked theorbo by Paula Chateauneuf.

They both performed attractive solos, too.

A selection of compositions by earlier Italian and German masters, with resonant names like Biagio Marina and Johann Schmelzer, set the context for sonatas by Biber at the start and conclusion of each half of the programme.

What emerged was a style bristling with highly-accented decorative ornament. Often an extra edge was added by a crisp upbow at the end of the phrase, which was typically delayed to allow further displays of dexterity.

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Generally, chary of changing from one hand position up into higher ones, as was to become the style in violin playing a few decades later, Biber made his points with infinite variations and divisions within quite a narrow range. The effect was hypnotic, and the soloist traced the complexities with total absorption.

An unaccompanied passacaglia was testimony to Catholic aspects in Biber's music, with its sequence of dazzling Baroque patternings over a four-note base.

His Representative sonata, played with no less commitment or skill, suggested a convivial evening in a tavern, probably with the armed nighwatchmen knocking back their drink as they enjoyed some fancy fiddling.

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