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Clements, James

Aspects of the Ars Rhetorica in the Violin Music of Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)

Ph.D. Royal Holloway, University of London, 2002
(jn_clements@hotmail.com)

Discussions of Heinrich Biber's violin music to date have focussed predominantly on its use (or otherwise) of virtuosity at the expense of other aspects; when rhetoric is taken as a departure point in this repertoire, a broader, more context-based interpretation is possible.

Chapter 1 explores the rhetorical background, the role of rhetoric in society, the education system, and music theory of the period, and situates Biber in relation to these. The rhetorical style category phantasia, and its musical counterpart, the stylus phantasticus, are related to contemporary instrumental music, especially Biber's violin music. Biber's written Latin and German dedications to his music collections are analysed in Chapter 2: the use of rhetoric to express meaning in these dedications highlights important aspects of the music.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 explore the violin music. The sacred violin music -- the Mystery Sonatas -- is discussed in Chapter 3, which highlights the symbols and images associated with the rhetorical and devotional context as exemplified by contemporary artistic representations, Rosary Psalters, and other liturgical texts. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the remaining violin music, which is not specifically sacred, in terms of musical style, and particularly the use of the stylus phantasticus. Appendix A contains transcriptions and translations of the written dedications, and editions of those previously unpublished compositions discussed in Chapter 5 are given in Appendix B.