Biber: Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas

Biber: Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas


Alan Chooviolin

Jeannette Sorrell, director/harpsichord
Apollo’s Fire

Release Date:

1st March 2024

Cat No:



£19.49 (2CD | 24-page booklet)



“Musical meditations on the life of Christ brought vividly to life in these performances from violinist Alan Coo with Apollo’s Fire directed by Jeannette Sorrell. Choo’s playing is fluent, expressive, passionate and melancholy. Purists might object to the sheer variety of continuo instruments, even adding percussion as we heard. The results, though, are so dramatically persuasive, never forgetting the meditative and spiritual aspects of Bieber’s invention, and what a remarkable set of pieces these are” - Record Review: Record of the Week • Andrew McGregor | BBC Radio 3

Mystery Man: Alan Choo offers a colourful take on Biber’s sonatas … Alan Choo has overlooked little in matters of expressive fervour, conveying exuberance … while projecting dissonant melancholy … well served by a pleasingly colourful continuo. Choo has found a persuasive middle road with a satisfying result” ★★★★★ – BBC Music Magazine

“The violinist’s playing is extraordinary – as fresh and improvisatory as though he were composing each sonata on the spot, but also infused with an infectious emotional ardor.” – Cleveland Classical

“Choo is up to the challenge of the Mysteries, playing with the passion, fire, and brio called for to infuse these sacred pieces with the life they deserve. Creatively equipoise, Sorrell’s sensitive programming of accompaniment is inspired.” – Wild Mercury Rhythm

“Alan Choo, Jeannette Sorrell and the members of Apollo’s Fire, using period instruments and with a firm understanding of historical performance practices and the expectations of Biber’s time, handle the sonatas in such a well-considered manner on a two-CD AVIE release that the music’s emotional depth comes through clearly even for listeners of different faiths or none at all” – Infodad

“[Alan] Choo has arrived … Highly recommended for connoisseurs and enthusiasts of Baroque music. And if you’re not already familiar with Choo and his collaboration with the Cleveland-based Apollo’s Fire, you will be now” – AudAud

an outstanding new recording … exceptional soloist … a superb release” – WholeNote


The Mystery Sonatas by Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, believed to have been penned in the 1670s, remain unsurpassed for their virtuosity and extended use of scordatura, a unique tuning system that underscores different aural colours and timbres of the violin, thereby illuminating the pictorial themes of the Rosary – the processions devoted to major moments in the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary – which Biber’s work depicts.

Singaporean violinist Alan Choo, the vibrant leader of acclaimed baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire, headlines a dynamic and descriptive recording of the Mystery Sonatas, enhancing the scordatura with six different violins that require 15 individual tunings. He explains, “The use of a unique scordatura tuning for each sonata means that a violinist needs to use multiple violins if performing several of the pieces in the same week – each violin kept at the tuning of its respective sonata. Otherwise, the constant re-tuning of a violin would destabilize its tuning. I used a total of six violins in this recording. The personality of each instrument shines through.”

Joined by a chamber ensemble of his Apollo’s Fire colleagues, including founding director Jeannette Sorrell on harpsichord, Choo navigates Biber’s extended techniques with aplomb and devotion to the 15 programmatic sonatas which are compiled into three cycles – the Joyful Mysteries (the Angel Gabriel delivers the news to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah), Sorrowful Mysteries (Jesus’ agony, knowing he is about to be betrayed) and Glorious Mysteries (the Resurrection of Christ and his ascent to heaven) – and are crowned by the timeless finale, Passacaglia for solo violin.



Mystery Sonatas
Die Rosenkranzsonaten; Copper-Engraving Sonatas

Disc 1

The Joyful Mysteries

Sonata No. 1 in D Minor “The Annunciation”
1. I. Praeludium
2. II. Aria (Allegro) – Variatio – Finale

Sonata No. 2 in A Major “The Visitation”
3. I. Sonata
4. II. Allaman
5. III. Presto

Sonata No. 3 in B Minor “The Nativity”
6. I. Sonata
7. II. Courente – Double
8. III. Adagio

Sonata No. 4 in D Minor “The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple”
9. Ciacona

Sonata No. 5 in A Major “The Finding of Jesus in the Temple”
10. I. Praeludium
11. II. Allaman
12. III. Guigue
13. IV. Saraban – Double

The Sorrowful Mysteries

Sonata No. 6 in C Minor “The Agony in the Garden”
14. I. Lamento
15. II. Adagio

Sonata No. 7 in F Major “The Scourging at the Pillar”
16. I. Allamanda – Variatio
17. II. Sarabanda – Variatio

Sonata No. 8 in B flat Major “The Crowning with Thorns”
18. I. Sonata: Adagio – Presto – [Adagio]
19. II. Guigue – Double (Presto) – Double II

Sonata No. 9 in A Minor “The Carrying of the Cross”
20. I.  Sonata
21. II. Courente – Double – [Double II]
22. III. Finale

Sonata No. 10 in G Minor “The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus”
23. I. Praeludium
24. II. Aria – Variatio

Disc 2

The Glorious Mysteries

Sonata No. 11 in G Major “The Resurrection”
1. I. Sonata
2. II. Surrexit Christus hodie
3. III. Adagio

Sonata No. 12 in C Major “The Ascension”
4. I. Intrada
5. II. Aria Tubicinum
6. III. Allamanda
7. IV. Courente – Double

Sonata No. 13 in D Minor “The Descent of the Holy Spirit”
8. I. Sonata
9. II. Gavott – Guigue
10. III. Sarabanda

Sonata No. 14 in D Major “The Assumption of Mary into Heaven”
11. I. [Praeludium]
12. II. Aria – Aria II – Guigue

Sonata No. 15 in C Major “The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth”
13. I. Sonata
14. II. Aria – [Variatio]
15III. Canzon
16. IV. Sarabanda

Sonata No. 16 in G Minor “The Guardian Angel”
17. Passacaglia

Alan Chooviolin
Jeannette Sorrell, director/harpsichord
Apollo’s Fire

Recorded at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
November 19, 2021; September 26-29, 2022; November 30-December 1, 2022;
February 8-9, 2023; March 31, 2023; May 15-16, 2023.
Recording Producer and Editor: Erica Brenner
Recording and Mix Engineer: Daniel Shores
Mastering Engineer: Paul Blakemore

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