Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
August 12
Can You Guess?
We know the tuning scheme for violins.  E, A, D and G. Can You Guess how violas are tuned?
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1696 - Maurice Greene, English composer and organist, was born in London

1859 - Katherine Lee Bates, US author and Professor of English, was born.  She wrote the poem America The Beautiful.

1877 - Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and made the first sound recording.

1922 - First live broadcast of a concert by the New York Philharmonic on radio station WJZ. Music by Dvorák, Saint-Saens, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Rimksy-Korsakov and Gluck.

1957 - Buddy Holly and the Crickets first entered the US charts with That'll Be the Day.

2001 - Premiere of
Esa-Pekka Salonen's
Foreign Bodies. Finnish Radio Symphony conducted by the composer at the Schlewswig-Holstein Festival in Germany.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber was born August 12, 1644.

He was born on an estate where his father was the huntsman or forester. There is no record of his early music training,  but by the mid-1660s he was in the orchestra of Prince-Bishop Karl Lichtenstein-Kastelkorn of Olmütz, a leading music-lover and the owner of one of the great collections of early Baroque music manuscripts.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber
1644 - 1704
Von Biber's reputation as a fine violinist was spreading, and he decided that he could do better elsewhere.  He left the Bishop's service in 1670, but had not yet received permission to leave.  The Bishop issued a warrant for his arrest, and von Biber had to hide out with Jakob Stainer, a famous luthier, who spread the word that von Biber was a "formidable virtuoso."

That winter Biber joined the court of Maximilian Gandolf, Reichsgraf von Khünberg, Prince Bishop of Salzburg. In Salzburg he obtained a series of promotions: trainer of the cathedral choir boys (1677); vice-Kapellmeister (1679); dean of the choir boys' school and Court Kapellmeister (1684).
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Did You Guess?
A viola is tuned a fifth lower than a violin.  So the highest string on a viola is the same note as a violin's open AThe next lowest string is D, then G and the lowest string is a C.
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Von Biber continued to compose and published many works.  Evidently von Biber eventually settled his differences with his first employer, the Bishop in Olmütz.  Von Biber gave him many of his original manuscripts and first editions.

Apparently von Biber traveled to some extent.  There are records of at least two trips to Munich, where he was decorated by the Court, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, awarded him a patent of nobility in 1690, which means that von Biber probably performed in Vienna.

Today von Biber is best remembered for his violin works.  His trademark in many of these pieces is the use of scordatura, which is tuning an instrument's strings to notes other than the traditional tuning.  Two famous works in which von Biber used scordatura for special tone colors are the Mystery Sonatas (15 sonatas on the Rosary) and Harmonia Artificiosa-Ariosa, a work for string ensemble.   Von Biber also wrote two operas (one of which survives) and a variety of religious music.

The harmonies, textures and counterpoint that Von Biber wrote resurfaced centuries later inthe works of Hindemith and Ives.  Many musicologists have called von Biber the greatest composer before Johann Sebastian Bach, in addition to his being called by many the greatest violinist of the Seventeenth Century.