The use of Scordatura in Heinrich Biber's Harmonia artificioso-ariosa
Mitchell, Margaret Kehl
Master of Music
Violin scordatura, the alteration of the normal g-d'-a'-e" tuning of the instrument, originated from the spirit of musical experimentation in the early seventeenth century. Closely tied to the construction and fittings of the baroque violin, scordatura was used to expand the technical and coloristlc resources of the instrument. Each country used scordatura within its own musical style. Although scordatura was relatively unappreciated in seventeenth-century Italy, the technique was occasionally used to aid chordal playing. Germany and Austria exploited the technical and coloristlc benefits of scordatura to produce chords, Imitative passages, and special effects. England used scordatura primarily to alter the tone color of the violin, while the technique does not appear to have been used in seventeenth century France. Scordatura was used for possibly the most effective results in the works of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-174), a virtuoso violinist and composer. Scordatura appears in three of Biber's works -- the "Mystery Sonatas", Sonatae violino solo, and Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa -- although the technique was used for fundamentally different reasons in each set. In the "Mystery Sonatas", scordatura was used to produce various tone colors and to facilitate certain technical feats. In Sonatae violino solo, scordatura appears to have been used as one of the many visual and technical experiments of the set Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa, a set of seven trio sonatas, used scordatura primarily to increase the sonority of the work. All the tunings make the solo instruments more resonant, and the use of scordatura effects, such as unisons and multiple stops, increase the amount of sound produced. Biber's choice of key, instrumentation, and texture also contribute to the greater sonority of the set. Unfortunately, no reliable modern edition of the work is available. The only modern edition, published in the PenkmHler der Tonkunst in Usterreich series, is handicapped by numerous transcription errors and an incorrect statement of the title of the work. A corrected edition is necessary, for future scholarship and performance of Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa require an accurate reproduction of the work. Historically, Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa is one of the rare examples of two solo instruments in scordatura, and the work deserves further scholarly attention. For the modern performer, Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa would expand the repertoire and provide a challenging and rewarding musical experience.