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Biber - Ricordo - Audiophile Audition


01 June 2002
Audiophile Audition
Laurence Vittes

The six-member ensemble known as Ricordo's breathtaking performance of music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (plus a pastorella by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer), in which the members of this dynamite young ensemble sketch with deconstructionist intensity and incredible flashes of virtuosity music which combines innovation and imagination in equal measure, benefits from a stunning HDCD recording that upholds Linn's reputation as a leading audiophile label.

Biber was responsible in part for shifting the focus of violin supremacy from Italy to Austria and Germany. His fame as a virtuoso violinist was, as he wrote himself in a successful petition for knighthood, "well known to great many courts." Born in Bohemia, he spent most of his life in Salzburg where he worked for the Prince-Archbishop. He became a well-published, successful and moderately wealthy musician. He planted a small garden and cultivated wine. He sounds like a musician who would have fit in well today. His music is spontaneous, intense, wide-ranging in mood intended to entertain a discriminating, highly-sophisticated audience.

When they were founded in 1997, Ricordo (violinists Kati Debretzeni and Penelope Spencer, viola da gambist Alison McGillivray, lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, keyboardist Robert Howarth and trombonist Adam Woolf) focused initially on the links between Austria and Italy and the flamboyant instrumental genre known as stylus phantasticus; their concerts have from the beginning featured violin sonatas by Marini, Walther, Schmelzer and Biber.

Transylvania-born Debretzeni supplies liner notes which reflect not only the ensemble's delicious obsession with the extravagant instrumental fantasies on the CD but contribute a new word to the language: Biberesque. The outstanding recording, engulfed in warmth yet clear as a bell, was made at the National Centre for Early Music in York, England, and was produced and engineered by Philip Hobbs.


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