Biber – Rosary Sonatas

Rachel Podger

Original Recording Format: DSD 64
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Johann Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor at Leipzig, composed biblical sonatas depicting stories – such as David and Goliath – in abstract, worldless, keyboard pieces. Biber’s Mystery Sonatas are quite different because they form part of a linked meditation on the life of Jesus and therefore present remarkable potential for the interpreter as a kind of ‘Evangelist’. Uniquely, these celebrated works employ fourteen different scordatura tunings where the altered intervals on the four strings create extraordinarily different ‘sound worlds’ to describe each event. Singers aside, performers are rarely presented with such heady subject matter to motivate their interpretations, apart from the usual movement titles indicating tempi, pulse and character.
Some pieces may have meaningful titles with a dedication, perhaps to another composer or friend, and we also come across specific instructions to ‘imitate’ various animals. For instance, Biber’s Battalia – a work which employs fashionable programmatic elements in the best traditions of a sonata rappresentativa) – portrays both the battle and the lament for the dead in a fashion which requires no further explanation. Likewise, in the case of C.P.E. Bach’s trio sonata Sanguineus and Melancholicus, a whole scene is described with meticulous and detailed instructions for expression, ranging from stubbornness and anger to laughter and ridicule, and even irony!


The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Nativity
The Presentation in the Temple
The Finding in the Temple
The Agony in the Garden
The Scourging
The Crowning with Thorns
The Carrying of the Cross
The Crucifixion
The Resurrection
The Ascension
The Descent of the Holy Ghost
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin
Guardian Angel

Total time: 02:14:57

Additional information





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van der Hul

Digital Converters

Grimm AD DSD

Mastering Engineer

Jared Sacks

Mastering Equipment

Grimm LS1 – multichannel


Bruel & Kjaer, Schoeps

Mixing Board

Rens Heijnis custom made


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Original Recording Format


Jonathan Freeman Attwood

Recording Engineer

Jared Sacks

Recording location

The Church of St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London

Recording Software


Recording Type & Bit Rate


Release Date September 19, 2015

Press reviews

Scherzo (Spain)

‘Rachel Podger ofrece una interpretación refinada, meditativa y delicadícima de esta magna muestra del mejor Stylus Phantasticus violinístico’


Unter den hier besprochenen Aufnahmen liefert Podger die souveränste ab: ihre stupende technische Brillanz, ihr warmer und farbenreicher Ton, ihre kluge Phrasierung in weiten musikalischen Bögen sind in diesem Feld ebenso ohne Konkurrenz wie die u?berragende Aufnahmequalität der SACD, und auch das Booklet informiert mit Abstand am besten über die Eigenheiten der Rosenkranzsonaten.

Early Music 5 stars

(…) years of study of and lieving with the works shine through her radiant playing.(…) meditative attitude to the whole set of sonatas (…)


(…) Rachel Podger, ever a glorious example of someone who lives life through her violin. (…)


Rachel Podger plays beautifully, and the supporting ensemble is superb: they produceed through this musical and emotional journey with passion and resolute focus. Jared Sacks’s recording is utterly transparent.


These astonishing sonatas have long been a favourite with baroque specialists (…) while Podger is up against some stiff competition these are performances of works that strech both the violin and the violinist to the limit that will hold their own against any. (…)


I am addicted to these sonatas, and buy every recording I can find. There are many good ones, several in multichannel, including three new ones in the past year alone. I’ve settled on this one for its balance. There is already so much joy and intensity in the music that adding more is as compromising as is conveying less. Rachel Podger plays beautifully, and the supporting ensemble is superb: they proceed through this musical and emotional journey with passion and resolute focus. Jared Sacks’s recording is utterly transparent.

Fono Forum 2015 Charts

Diese neue Referenzeinspielung ist technisch von einer überragenden Souveränität und musikalisch von einer vorbildlichen Ausgewogenheit gekennzeichnet.

Klassieke Zaken

Rachel Podger zet duidelijk een nieuwe standaard. (…) Verfijnd en galant (…)

Tijdschrift Oude Muziek

(…) Van Podger verwachten we natuurlijk de best mogelijke uitvoering en die krijgen we ook. (…) Wat Biber de viool allemaal laat doen, komt bij Podger rechtstreeks voort uit het muzikale verhaal dat ze wil vertellen. (…) haar uitvoering is mijn eerste keus.

Toccata (CD des Monats, Jan. 2016)

Hier wird ergreifend, beseelt und höchst elegant gespielt. Der Eindringlichkeit des Vortrags kann man sich einfach nicht entziehen, die Spannung herrscht vom ertsen bis letzen Bogenstrich. Das ist hohe Kunst. (…)

The Strad (recommends)

(…) Rachel Podger, easily one of today’s finest purveyors of period violin playing, is the ideal guide to these ever-intriguing pieces. (…)

FonoForum (Recommendation of the Month) 5 out of 5

(…) sie lädt den Hörer ebenso ernsthaft wie freundlich zu einer Meditation über die 15 Mysterien des Rosenkranzes ein (…) Dass ihr Vortrag technisch von einer überragenden Souveränität und musikalisch von einer vorbildlichen Ausgewogenheit gekennzeichnet ist, macht die Sache nur noch erfreulicher. (…) eine neue Referenz- einspielung!

The Guardian

(…) fantastically complex works, with different violin tunings and multiple stoppings, so that Rachel Podger’s accomplished new recording sounds like a battery of many violins. (…)


It is important to judge every disc on its individual merits. That can sometimes be difficult with the recordings of violinist Rachel Podger, who tends to record a disc and receive immidiate praise without exception. But is is easy eith het new recording of Biber’s Rosary, or ‘Mystery’, Sonatas. (…) In the end, though, if this disc shows anything, it is that however established they are, the greatest performers are those that still have the power to surprise and gladden, whatever you previously thought you knew of them.

Positive Feedback

Podger’s Biber is predictably more expressive and sensual than most others’ but it is absolutely Biber, perhaps even more so. (…) a wonderful performance and recording of wonderful music.

Opus Klassiek

(…) een schot in de roos (…) het zoveelste topproduct van Jared Sacks.

ND 5 out of 5

(…) Recensenten hebben zich bij eerdere opnames wel afgevraagd of je deze sonates wel allemaal achter elkaar moet beluisteren. Waarschijnlijk is dat niet de bedoeling geweest. Dat dit bij de uitvoering van Podger geen probleem is, komt niet alleen door haar prachtige, levendige spel, maar ook door de afwisselende begeleiding. Zij laat zich niet alleen door een orgel of klavecimbel begeleiden, afwisselend zijn ook een cello, viola da gamba, theorbe en aartsluit te horen. De laatste twee zijn luiten met enkele aanvullende bassnaren. (…)


De meesterlijke Engelse barokvioliste Rachel Podger geeft haar eigen draai aan deze werken (…) Podger overrompelt niet maar neemt de luisteraar mee in het verhaal (…) 5 out of 5

Without doubt this is yet another award worthy production from the incomparible Rachel Podger and the Channel Classics Team. (…) she and her colleagues do not disappoint anywhere on this supremely rewarding two-disc set. (…) each and every instrumental line is delineated with absolute clarity and positional accuracy.


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