Musical Delicacies

— Early Music Concert Series —

250 Kč / 150 Kč / 90 Kč

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Rosary Sonatas

A unique opportunity to hear the complete “mystery cycle” by H. I. F. Biber, the legendary Czech-born violin virtuoso. Robert Bachara will perform the cycle entirely by heart on 6 different violins, which are tuned differently for each sonata.

Saturday 6 November 2021 17:00 (to 19:30) — Mendel’s refectory, Augustinian Abbey (Mendel Museum), Mendlovo náměstí 1a, 603 00  Brno, Czech Republic. (Wheelchair accessible)  (Event on Facebook)
The entrance is across the street from the tram stops, a narrow gateway in the whitewashed monastery wall, see map.

Organised by Plaisirs de Musique assoc. in cooperation with the Hospice St. Elizabeth CIC.



Five Joyful Mysteries
D minor
Annunciation of Our Lady   (Mt 1:18, Lk 1:26–38)
Quem Virgo concepisti
Præludium — Variatio — Aria allegro – (Variatio – Adagio – Finale)
A major
Visitation to Elizabeth   (Lk 1:39–56)
Quem visitando Elisabeth portasti
Sonata – (Presto) — Allaman: – (Presto)
B minor
Nativity of Jesus   (Lk 2:6–7)
Quem Virgo genuisti
Sonata – (Presto – Adagio) — Courente — Double — Adagio
D minor
Presentation in the Temple   (Lk 2:22–32)
Quem in templo præsentasti
Ciacona – (Adagio piano – Presto – Adagio)
A major
Finding in the Temple   (Lk 2:41–50)
Quem in templo invenisti
Præludium — Presto — Allaman: — Guigue — Saraban: – (Double)
Five Sorrowful Mysteries
C minor
Agony in Gethsemane Garden   (Lk 22:42–44)
Qui pro nobis sanguinem sudavit
Lamento – (Adagio – Presto – Adagio [Sarabande] – Adagio [Aria] – Adagio)
F major
Scourging at the Pillar   (Mt 27:26, Jn 19:1)
Qui pro nobis flagellatus est
Allamanda – (Variatio) — Sarab[anda]. — Variatio
B-flat major
Crown of Thorns   (Mt 27:29, Jn 19:2)
Qui pro nobis spinis coronatus est
Sonata. Adagio – (Presto – [Adagio]) — Guigue — Double. Presto — Double 2
A minor
Christ carrying the Cross   (Jn 19:17–22)
Qui pro nobis crucem bajulavit
Sonata — Courente — Double — [Double 2] — Finale
G minor
Crucifixion   (Jn 19:25–30)
Qui pro nobis crucifixus est
Præludium — Aria — [Variatio] — Adagio — [Variatio 3–5]
Five Glorious Mysteries
G major
Resurrection   (Mk 16:1–7)
Qui resurrexit a mortuis
Sonata — Surrexit Christus hodie — Adagio
C major
Ascension   (Acts 1:9–11)
Qui in cælum ascendit
Intrada — Aria Tubicinum — Allamanda — Courente — Double
D minor
Descent of the Holy Spirit   (Acts 2:1–4)
Qui Spiritum Sanctum misit
Sonata — Gavott — Guigue — Sarabanda
D major
Assumption of the Virgin   (Ps 15:10, 1 Cor 15:22–23)
Qui te, Virgo, assumpsit
[Præludium] – (Grave – adagio) — Aria – [Variatio 1–14] – Aria [Variatio 15–20] – Guigue [Variatio 21–29]
C major
Coronation of the Virgin   (Rev 12:1)
Qui te, Virgo, in cælis coronavit
Sonata — Aria – [Variatio 1–3] — Canzon — Sarabanda – [Variatio]
G minor
Guardian angel
Paßagalia – (adagio – allegro – adagio)
Sonata 2: Visitation to Elizabeth.
Sonata 5: Finding in the Temple.
Sonata 6: Agony in Gethsemane Garden.
Sonata 11: Resurrection.
(The two middle strings are crossed below the bridge and in the pegbox.)
Sonata 16: Guardian angel.
Musical notation. The scordatura tunings of each Rosary Sonata. — Source: Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5).

About the programme

Due to the length of this unique complete (unabridged!) performance of all 16 sonatas, the individual thematic units (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries) will be divided by two intermissions. During the intermissions, refreshments will be available in the adjacent Mendel Café.
Copperengraving. Source: Sonatæ, Violino solo (Salzburg, 1681), pag. 1.
Heinrich I. F. Biber, the Most Sublime and Most Reverend Prince and Archbishop of Salzburg his Vice Chapel-Master at his age of 36 years.

H. I. F. Biber

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber was born 1644 in Stráž pod Ralskem (Wartenberg) in North Bohemia. After studies at the Jesuit Gymnasium in Opava (Troppau) he entered the service of Prince-Bishop Carl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn in Kroměříž (Kremsier) in 1668, but defected after just two years (without permission) to Salzburg, where he entered the service of Prince-Archbishop Maximilliam Gandolf von Kuenburg. Biber remained in Salzburg until his death in 1704.

Biber was appointed vice chapelmaster to the Archbishop in 1678. Probably the same year (perhaps as thank you for the appointment) he composed the set of 16 pieces for solo violin and basso continuo which today are known as the “Rosary Sonatas” or “Mystery Sonatas”. These names are modern, the manuscript (today in the Bavarian State Library, D–Mbs mus.mss. 4123) has no title page, only a dedication to the Archbishop. The 16 pieces also have no titles, but each piece is marked with a copper engraved medaillon depicting one of the 15 Rosary Mysteries; the final passacaglia shows the Guardian Angel. The medaillons were cut from a broadside (large single-sheet print) “Kurtze Unterweisung” from 1678, containing the statutes of the Salzburg Rosary Confraternity and a table of the indulgences granted for reciting the Rosary Prayer.

The rosary

The rose and the Rosary (crown of roses) are symbols of the Virgin Mary. In the 16th century, the Rosary Prayer became the most popular expression of Christian devotion. It is also called “the Psalter of Saint Mary”, because just like the monastic orders recite the 150 Psalms of David in a four-week rota, so the Rosary Prayer recites 150 Hail Mary (Ave Maria). They are divided into 15 groups or “decades”: Each decade is introduced by the Lord’s Prayer (Pater noster qui es in cælis), followed by 10 Ave Maria, and ending with the Doxology (Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto).

Example: Prayer text for the small beads in the first decade.
Latin English
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui,
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
quem Virgo concepisti. whom you, Virgin, conceived.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus
nunc et in hora mortis nostræ.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Each decade is associated with one of the 15 Mysteries of the Rosary: The 5 Joyful Mysteries, the 5 Sorrowful Mysteries and the 5 Glorious Mysteries. The text for the mystery is inserted into the Ave Maria as shown in the example.

Copperengraving. Source: Bartolomeo Scalvo, Meditationi del Rosario della Gloriosa Maria Vergine (Venezia, 1583).

To help counting the prayers, a string with beads is used (figuratively a “rosary”). It usually comprises 5 decades (recited 3 times), with a big bead for each Pater noster and a small bead for each Ave Maria. In addition, a crucifix marks the Apostles’ Creed (Credo in unum Deum) which must be recited at the start of the Rosary Prayer. The prayer string must be blessed (by the Pope or somebody authorized by him).

The Members of the Rosary Confraternity were granted an indulgence for each recital of the full Rosary Prayer (15 decades), typically 7 years and 7 quarantines (40 days), or a plenary indulgence on certain feast days. The indulgence could also be applied to the souls of deceased persons in purgatory. You could even have somebody else recite the Rosary Prayer for you.

The Salzburg Rosary Confraternity was founded 1632 by the abbot of St. Peter’s church, but it soon moved to the newly built Aula Academica of the Benedictine University. We may speculate that the Rosary Sonatas were intended for this aula, or for the processions which the confraternity organised. The magnificent closing passacaglia may also have been intended for another congregation at the University, the Confraternity of the Guardian Angel.

The uniqueness of the collection lies in its program plan, where each sonata corresponds to one bead of the rosary, but also in the complex use of scordatura (prescribing different tunings of the strings of the violin) unique to each sonata. For the first sonata “Annunciation” and the final Passacaglia, the composer prescribes the classical tuning in fifths, but for the other sonatas there are various combinations of thirds, fourths and octaves. Thanks to the different tension of the strings and the possibility of playing full chords on open strings, the sonatas have different moods corresponding to the given theme. The scordaturas — together with the structure of the whole cycle and of the individual sonatas and their parts — also have deeper symbolic and numerological meanings.

Robert Bachara

Robert Bachara was born in Wrocław, Poland, in 1985. At the age of seven, he joined the Pueri Cantores Wratislavienses boys’ choir, where his musical talent was discovered. The following year, he started learning the violin with Michail and Victor Kuznetsov. He subsequently studied violin with Krzysztof Bruczkowski at the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, graduating in 2009; in this year, he also qualified for the semi-final of the 4th Tadeusz Wroński Solo Violin Competiton (Warsaw). He perfected his playing in masterclasses with Ida Haendel, Grigori Żyslin and Jadwiga Kaliszewska.

Robert first appeared as soloist at the age of thirteen in Henryk Wieniawski’s “Fantaisie brillante sur des motifs de l’opéra Faust de Gounod” with Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2007, he toured Europe with Barock Orchester Berlin (Stefan Bevier), playing as soloist in over hundred concerts. He has also performed at many music festivals, such as Wratislavia Cantans, Festiwal Muzyki Wiedeńskiej, and Polonia Cantans.

Robert Bachara has been teaching violin at the Music Academy in Łódź since 2010, later at the Wrocław Music Academy, where he also was Dean of the Music Faculty. He decided to abandon these prestigious positions and devote himself exclusively to playing Baroque violin. Since 2016 he has been concert master and soloist of the Capella Cracoviensis orchestra, but he is also particularly interested in the repertoire for solo violin without basso continuo. His doctoral thesis is devoted to unknown solo violin works by German composers. With his solo recitals, which he play exclusively by heart, he focuses among other things on the complete performance of the core works of Baroque violin literature (Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, Vilsmayr, Westhoff).


Jan Čižmář

Photo: Jan Čižmář.

Jan Čižmář is a versatile performer focusing on historical plucked instruments. He performs regularly in Europe, Asia and the USA with ensembles such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Capella Cracoviensis and {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna, and under conductors such as Frans Brüggen, Christopher Hogwood, Giovanni Antonini, Yannick Nézet–Séguin and Christina Pluhar. He appears also as soloist with of baroque and renaissance repertoire, and is the artistic leader of the ensemble Plaisirs de Musique.

After graduating in guitar and musicology in his native city Brno he studied at the Royal College of Music in London, where he began playing the lute in the class of Jakob Lindberg. He continued his studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague with the teachers Nigel North, Joachim Held, Mike Fentross and Christina Pluhar. He was the founder and editor of the Czech guitar magazine Kytara and contributes regularly to other musical periodicals. He is also intensely involved with publishing and research activities in the field of early music.

Jan Čižmář currently teaches the lute and related instruments at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna, the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice (Poland), the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, the Conservatoire in České Budějovice and the Vítězslava Kapralová Music School in Brno; he also taught at the Academy of Early Music of the Masaryk University in Brno. He regularly gives courses and masterclasses in Europe and overseas.

He appears on some dozens of CDs; his first solo CD was released in 2020 (Supraphon), dedicated to the music of Codex Jacobides.


Thank you

The concert takes place with financial support from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Statutory City of Brno.

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