Recorded July 2002
"Der Turken Anmarsch", a recording distinguished by extraordinarily inventive and committed performances, marks "the end of an era" for John Holloway. The album brings to a conclusion fourteen years of intensive work on Biber's music. "I have come to an ever greater admiration of Biber," Holloway says, "and of his immense contribution to the development of the violin as a serious instrument for Western music." As with his previous album "Unam Ceylum", the British violinist and his associates perform pieces from Biber's 1681 anthology, Sonatae Violino solo, which formed the cornerstone of his reputation. They show how secular and sacred concerns are interwoven in music as arresting and as innovative as the "Mystery Sonatas".
In the liner notes, Peter Wollny writes: "Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), chapel-master at Salzburg, has gone down in history as one of the greatest violinists of his age. His astonishing prowess can be seen not only in the demanding violin parts he wrote in his music for instrumental and vocal ensemble, but especially in his many sonatas for solo violin. But Biber, in his compositions, was concerned with more than simply flaunting his extraordinary virtuosity: as he stressed several times in the prefaces to his printed editions, his music was meant to be pervaded - and thereby legitimized - by his compositional skills. In making good this claim, he also acquired the reputation of being one of the supreme composers of his generation."
"Der Turken Anmarsch" takes its title from Biber's A-Minor Sonata. Some questions remain regarding authorship of parts of the work, for the manuscript is attributed to Schmelzer. Andreas Anton Schmelzer, son of the great violinist composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, apparently reworked a piece by Biber to relate it to events of 1683, when the Turks launched an assault on the city of Vienna. Though the programmatic theme - Islam versus Christianity - has lost none of its topicality over three centuries, there is little indication that religious war was on Biber's mind when he structured the piece. Large parts of the composition clearly stem from Biber's tenth sonata in the "Mystery Cycle", intended to depict the crucifixion in the original context."
This CD is the third volume in a conceptual trilogy which began with "Unarum Fidium" (music of Schmelzer, primarily, but also embracing Bertali and an anonymously-composed sonata most likely from Biber's pen), and the all-Biber "Unam Ceylum" - a prize-winning and internationally acclaimed disc. The new recording traces the historical transition from Biber to Muffat and "completes a look at a brilliant offshoot of the explosion of violin music in 17th century Italy, an offshoot which in many ways outgrew its forebears south of the Alps, but which died at beginning of the 18th century with Biber and Muffat." (2004 marks the 300th anniversary of the death of both composers).
The three albums have been linked by a basso continuo sound "almost never heard in baroque solo instrumental music: harpsichord and organ played simultaneously by two players, each realising the figured bass to the full harmonic, contrapuntal and rhythmic potential of their instrument." The challenges were considerable, but Aloysia Assenbaum and Lars Ulrik Mortensen established a framework "in which both players felt able to express themselves freely while contributing effectively and idiomatically to the total sound." The result has been some exceptionally joyous music-making, with Holloway's amazingly fluid violin-playing drawing inspiration also from the vigorous support offered by his co-musicians.
Aloysia Assenbaum, who had been fighting serious illness through this period, was to die six months later; her final performances were on an American tour with Holloway and Mortensen, playing music from the ECM recordings. As Holloway notes, "Everyone who came into contact with her was amazed by her energy and radiance, especially while making music...The wonderful sonata by Muffat which closes this recording - a work whose structure and character so nearly resembles a life - is a fitting tribute and farewell."
In 1975 John Holloway founded the Baroque ensemble L'Ecole d'Orphee, which made the first complete recording on baroque instruments of the instrumental chamber-music of Handel. He has performed and recorded a considerable chamber-music repertoire with such distinguished colleagues as Emma Kirkby, Stanley Ritchie and Andrew Manze, Davitt Moroney and Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Marion Verbruggen and Jaap ter Linden. John Holloway was concertmaster of Andrew Parrott's Taverner Players from 1977-1991, and of Roger Norrington's London Classical Players from 1978-1992. With these and other ensembles he has directed many concerts from the violin. Since 2001 he is Musical Director of the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra. He is also a teacher, and has since June 1999 been Professor of Violin and String Chamber-Music at the Hochschule fur Musik in Dresden, Germany.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen studied at The Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen (harpsichord with Karen Englund, figured bass with Jesper Boje Christensen) and with Trevor Pinnock in London. From 1988 to 1990 he was harpsichordist with London Baroque and until 1993 with Collegium Musicum 90 (leader: Simon Standage). He now works extensively as a soloist and chamber-musician in Europe, the United States, Mexico, South America and Japan, performing regularly with distinguished colleagues such as Emma Kirkby, John Holloway, and Jaap ter Linden. Mortensen was Professor for Harpsichord and Performance Practice at the Hochschule fur Musik in Munich from 1996 to 1999, and teaches at numerous courses for Baroque music throughout the world as well as being the harpsichord tutor for the European Union Baroque Orchestra. He is a member of the juries of several international harpsichord competitions. He is also increasingly to be heard as conductor, among others of the Scandinavian Baroque orchestra "Concerto Copenhagen", of which he is also artistic director.
Aloysia Assenbaum was an organist, conductor, editor and teacher. She was born near Stuttgart, Germany in 1961, and played the organ for services in her local church from the age of 10. By the age of 16 she had founded her first choir. She studied Church Music in Heidelberg and Stuttgart, and then conducting at the Musikhochschule in Mannheim. Her wide-ranging career included the formation of the Bach Collegium Heidelberg, music theatre and dance theatre projects, concerts as organist and piano accompanist, and teaching organ, piano, singing and choral-conducting. From 1992 to 1995 she was Head of the Music Conservatoire in Winterthur, Switzerland. For her work there, including the creation of a series of "Portraits of Women Composers" she was awarded the "Equal Rights Prize" 1995 in Zurich. Also a composer, Assenbaum wrote music for choir, for organ, and for mixed ensemble for dance projects. She died in December 2002.
Critical praise for John Holloway's Unam Ceylum:
"This is a disc of such stunningly brilliant virtuosity that it is hard to know where to start. This is music capable of moving from dynamic energy to eloquence in less time than it takes to write the words, music that can hurtle forward with seemingly unstoppable momentum only to fall back to calm, sensuous lyricism, music that can encompass everything from skilled counterpoint to rumbustious humour. Holloway's performance encompasses all of this with playing of amazing fluency and bravura passion... this is a staggering celebration of the art of violin playing."- Brian Robbins, Goldberg Magazine
"The very best thing about this CD is that it's the first of two which will together from a complete recording of Biber's "Sonatae violino solo" of 1681. From the very opening chord, it's clear that this is another Holloway recording of this repertoire to be reckoned with (after his wonderful Schmelzer Unarum fidium set on ECM). The continuo team provide a lavish backdrop to his fantastic realisations of Biber's music, with all its twisting and turning passagework, the increasingly intricate variations sets, the complex double-stopping in scordatura: it's all there, and it's all brilliant, in the true sense of the word. No-one interested in the repertoire should miss this!" - Brian Clark, Early Music Review
"John Holloway is dazzling on this immaculate disc from ECM …One of the greatest violinists of the seventeenth century, Biber's sonatas are, as Holloway himself puts it, "a complete compendium of his then playing technique". One can find every permutation of double-stopping, counterpoint and near-impossible passagework here. Keen listeners will note the seemingly unfeasible chords produced in Sonatas Nos 4 and 6 by dint of "scordatura", where the violin is detunes from its normal position."- Tarik O'Regan, The Observer
"On the cryptically titled disc Unam Ceylum, John Holloway burns up the fingerboard in a handful of the sonatas of 1681 by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber - the 17th century's greatest violin composer, and a towering figure in any age. Organ and harpsichord delectably fill out the sound." - Geoff Brown, The Times
"Biber was the Paganini of his day (though a far more original composer), a formidable tunesmith who was daringly exploitative of the violin's technical resources and had a marked fondness for variation form. His chaconnes are heady excursions, just the ticket if you enjoy - but are a little jaded by - Pachelbel's Canon. Biber also calls for "creative" mis-tuning called scordatura, which facilitates all manner of tone colours that are otherwise impossible to achieve. Holloway takes all this invention in his stride, bowing an easy, mellifluous line, often at lightning speed but always with unforced vitality." - Rob Cowan, The Independent