Rosary sonatas

The Rosary sonatas - the mysteries of Jesus and Maria


Sometime between 1670 and 1680, Biber dedicates a collection of 15 sonatas for violin and basso continuo and one passagalia for solo violin to his employer the Archbishop of Salzburg, Maximilian Gandolph von Khuenburg. The first page of the surviving manuscript is today unfortunately missing. This is why we do not know when the 16 sonatas were written or what the collection was originally called. It is known today as the Rosary sonatas or as the Mystery sonatas because of the small engravings at the beginning of every sonata. The 15 first engravings depicts the 15 mysteries of the Rosary and the last one, before the passagalia, represent a Guardian Angel holding the hand of a child.


The Rosary is a form of praying and part of the catholic Marian devotion. The prayer is arranged in 15 sets with a Pater Noster, 10 Ave Maria and a Gloria Patri. During each set the suppliant contemplate on one of the 15 mysteries which describes events in the life of Jesus and Maria. These 15 mysteries are divided into three groups of five: the joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious mysteries. Biber follows this division by using sharp keys for the joyful and glorious mysteries and flat keys for the sorrowful mysteries. It was very common to use images (like the engravings in Biber's collection) as help and inspiration to the contemplation during the prayer. It is possible that Biber composed these sonatas as an additional tool for the Rosary prayer. But we don't know exactly for what occasion and in which context they were composed and performed.


Biber uses the technique of scordatura - when tuning the strings of the violin in an other way than the established one - in his Rosary sonatas. There are 15 different tunings in the collection and each of them is related to the tonality of its sonata. The scordatura facilitates some otherwise difficult passages, gives the violin a new sound and resonance and expand the possibilities of the instrument.


LinGon is presenting in this program a selection of the Rosary sonatas combined with Marian motes. To intensify the experience, the music in this program is beautifully interlaced with eurythmy performed by the japanese master Rie Hata.




The Rosary sonatas (selection) 1670-80? - H.I.F. Biber (1644-1704)


The Annunciation


The Visitation


Natus est Jesu - Ph.F. Böddecker (1607-1683)


Presentation of Jesus in the Temple


Jesus at 12 in the Temple


Jesus on the Mount of Olives


The Crucifixion


Jesu nostra Redemtio - S.F. Capricornus (1628-1665)


The Assumption of Mary


Salve Regina - Anonymous