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AWARDS - Baroque non-vocal catagory

GRAMOPHONE (11/1995)
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Harmonia Mundi
HMG 507344/45

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"This is ‘early music' playing of the highest quality and undoubtedly amongst the finest baroque chamber music recording of recent years."

Reviewer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Biber's tercentenary in 1994 was marked by a number of important and succcssful releases but none as outstanding as this premiere recording of the violin sonatas of 1681. Andrew Manze is currently the exponent, par excellence, of seventeenth-century violin music. He commands the listener's attention with a supremely vital and rhetorical grasp of the unpredictable, improvisatory forms which characterize the remarkably inventive and unjustly neglected works. In unimaginative hands, Biber's violin music can, like much music of this period, meander in a fairly colourless and unmemorable way.  Manze realizes that too much fluster and bluster to get all the notes sounding squeeky clean and flashy misses the point. Instead he shows us that this Bohemian virtuoso whose reputation as violinist during the baroque was legendary - is a composer with an ambitious and sophisticated feel for colour and drama. Beyond the dance gestures and fireworks lies a depth of expression which requires adept pacing as well as a confident protagonist-player, hungry to deliver the varied and concentrated affections of Biber's passionate and elusive world. The ways in which Manze achieves this are too numerous to mention here except that, as a virtuoso himself (with a technical facility still unusual for period instrumentalists), he can afford to swagger about, dart in and out, bend notes, manipulate the pulse, hover tenderly, or dig into the soles of his feet; one moment polite and courtly then suddenly the astringent sound of the piper's drone and we are in a gipsy's caravan. It's all here and more.But if there is one overall distinction it is the range of tonal colour in Manze's playing, so sensitively employed and matched exquisitely by the continuo team of Romanesca. This is ‘early music' playing of the highest quality and undoubtedly amongst the finest baroque chamber music recording of recent years.

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