Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (August 12, 1644 ? May 3, 1704) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. Biber was born in Wartenberg (now Strá? pod Ralskem, Czech Republic). He was first a violinist at the castle of Kroměří? and the Salzburg court. In 1684 he became Kapellmeister in Salzburg, where he died twenty years later.
His prolific works show a predilection for canonic use and harmonic diapason that pre-date the later Baroque works of Johann Pachelbel and Johann Sebastian Bach. He was known as a violin virtuoso and is best known for his violin works, many of which employ scordatura (unconventional tunings of the open strings).
The music of Biber has enjoyed a renaissance, in part, because of The Rosary Sonatas. This remarkable set of 15 sonatas is also known as The Mystery Sonatas (for key events in the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ) and The Copper-Engraving Sonatas (for the engravings at the head of the sonatas). Each sonata employs a different tuning of the violin. This use of scordatura transforms the violin from the pleasures of the Five Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, etc.) to the trauma of the Five Sorrowful Mysteries (the Crucifixion, etc.) to ethereal nature of the Five Glorious Mysteries (the Resurrection, etc.). The reconfiguration of the violin is also symbolic. For example, the middle two strings of the violin are crossed for the Resurrection sonata.
Biber wrote much choral and chamber music, concertos, operas and a number of more well-known pieces such as the Nightwatchman Serenade and Harmonia Artificiosa. A work which is currently attributed to him (formerly it was attributed to Orazio Benevoli) is the Missa Salisburgensis, an astonishing polyphonic setting of the mass for 53 independent voices. Whether or not it is by Biber, it has more independent contrapuntal lines than any other piece of music from before the 20th century.
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