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Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch offers stylish, compelling accounts of these sonatas devoted to the mysteries of the rosary. She demonstrates total technical command and insightful understanding of Biber’s dramatic musical language, which exploits scordatura to especially striking effect. Battalia’s flexible instrumentarium helps to illustrate the music’s contrasting emotions, even though, as Peter Holman claims, there is little historical justification for ‘big-band Biber’ or instrument changes mid-sonata.

Highlights of the five ‘Joyful Mysteries’ include the free Prelude of no. 1, the characterfully executed Allamans of nos. 2 and 5 and Courente of no. 3, and the well- shaped Ciacona of no. 4. The ‘Sorrowful Mysteries’ focus on episodes in the Passion, vividly captured in Kaakinen-Pilch’s finger-sliding realisation of the lamenting Sixth Sonata’s chromatic language, the dramatic finale of no. 9, the grief-stricken utterances in no. 10’s Praeludium and its ensuing binary aria with variations, incorporating inventively embellished repeats.

In the ‘Glorious Mysteries’ she evokes imaginatively the earthquake that followed Christ’s death (no. 11), conveys the unearthly sonority of the hymn ‘Surrexit Christus hodie’ and realises intelligently the final Adagio’s two-voiced texture. Arresting, too, are the trumpet imitations and, perhaps for the wrong reasons, the quasi-‘slap pizzicato’ continuo effects (Aria Tubicinum) in no. 12, and the flamboyant Sonata and Guigue of no. 13. Her reading of the concluding Passacaglia is moving and well-paced and the recording has exemplary clarity and warmth.

Robin Stowell Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing