Music for Eastertide: Biber’s “Mystery” Sonatas

Passion, devotion, and a wealth of invention…at Easter time I am drawn to the remarkable set of the 15 “Mystery” (sometimes called “Rosary”) sonatas by the 17th-century composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. It’s a collection of 15 short sonatas chronicling key moments in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, organized into five “Joyful Mysteries,” five “Sorrowful Mysteries” and five “Glorious Mysteries.” And I find the final Passacaglia to be some combination of all three.

Which makes it all the cooler that uber-cool violinist Johnny Gandelsman (of Brooklyn Rider and Silk Road Ensemble fame) included this ancient marvel in his solo recital debut in NYC…at Le Poisson Rouge (“serving art and alcohol”). Go, Johnny Go!   And if you’re hooked, you can read more about the intricacies of Biber’s sonatas here.

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