Fantasia Incantata is available to purchase on vinyl and CD from Veterum Musica


‘These works are meant to sound as impulsive as improvisations, while also allowing their performers free rein in expression, ornamentation, and counterpoint—an opportunity that Stoffer and McCartney seize with fervor.

They revel in the violin’s power to simulate the human voice, a power that Stoffer raises to ecstatic heights. In slow movements, she leans lightly on long-held notes to make them moan and sigh or ululate with vibrato; on low, grainy notes, her violin growls; and she dashes and skitters through compressed flurries of virtuosic figures. Meanwhile, McCartney virtually shreds his accompaniments with fervent plucking and percussive strumming.

The album’s highlights include the wide-ranging forms, embracing both church and chamber music, of G. A. Pandolfi Mealli’s sonata “La Cesta,” from 1660, on which Stoffer and McCartney span extremes of ethereal calm and profane excitement.’

– The New Yorker, Richard Brody

‘This impressive recording by Ensemble Libro Primo (Sabine Stoffer & Alex McCartney) features 17th-century music for violin and theorbo written in the Stylus Phantasticus[.] … [The] sense of improvisatory performance infuses these performances with drama and excitement. One example is the solo violin Passagio Rotto by N. Matteis. Matteis was praised by Roger North for his “eloquent, expressive style“: words that accurately describe Sabine Stoffer’s own delightful playing.

Also included are two groups of theorbo pieces by Kapsberger, played with exquisite delicacy by Alex McCartney. Notable amongst these harmonically innovative pieces are the Gagliarda from the 1620 Terzo quarto d’intavolatura di chitarrone, and the impressive Passacaglia from Kapsberger’s 1640 Libro quarto.

Although it was recorded in Glasgow Cathedral, the acoustic sounds intimate and suits the music well.’

– Early Music Reviews +, Andrew Benson-Wilson

‘All the works were written as vehicles for those instrumentalists’ own prodigious virtuosity. As treated here by Stoffer and McCartney, they are stunning, highly inventive and the finest examples today of technically demanding works played with ease. Both play as though they have this music in their veins, so assured and full of flair are these performances.’

– The Whole Note

‘[T]his ancient music comes alive in fresh performances.’

– Lark Reviews

‘Stoffer and McCartney combine touching simplicity with full-on virtuosity, McCartney strumming syncopated rhythms like a guitarist at the works core climax.
Stoffer shows herself to be an accomplished performer and interpreter, relishing the virtuosic demands, and McCartney moves seamlessly between an accompanying role and more foreground duetting as the music requires. An impressive debut disc for the ensemble, with surely more to follow.’

– Classical Notes

The term Stylus Phantasticus first arises in Musurgia universalis (1650); Athanasius Kircher’s work about harmony in music. It is a style of both composing and performing instrumental music which derives from phantasiren or ‘the art of improvising’. Stylus Phantasticus represents a form of liberty in the composition of instrumental music. The style does not confine the composer’s imagination or force it to abide by strict rules. This way of writing instrumental music can be difficult to define using common structures and forms of the early 17th Century. In this case, the composer’s will to write down and structure their ideas was a natural conveyance of a highly elaborate improvisatory performance practice. Johann Mattheson writes about this contemporary performing style: ‘The Stylus Phantasticus is (…) sometimes agitated, sometimes hesitant, sometimes one- and sometimes many-voiced; often also shortly after the beat: without rhythm; but not without the intention to please, to rush nor to amaze.‘
For our CD, we have selected works representative of this genre not only for their obvious virtuosity, but also for their subtlety. The liberty within the style leads us through fantastically quick passages and also to moments of hesitation and silence. The juxtaposition of intense and frantic passages with the hesitant and tardy holds a particularly human charm.
Often interspersed amongst the quasi-improvisational passages of music, in both Viviani and Pandolfi Mealli, are ‘ground-basses’ providing occasional respite in the form of a repeating and reliable ostinato bass-line.
Nicola Matteis exhibited the eccentricity of the Stylus Phantasticus in his personality as well as his compositions. He was praised for his eloquent, expressive style by his contemporary Roger North. We can imagine his way of playing by studying his Passaggio Rotto.
Marini subtitles his Sonata Quarta ‘Per sonar con due Corde’ which suggests that using double stops on the violin was extraordinary for that time in Italy. We see the same effect as commonplace in Biber’s violin works; as he often writes multi-voiced chords and in scordatura (alternate tuning systems).
Biber’s Darstellung im Tempel (The Presentation) is the fourth sonata in the cycle of the famous 15 mystery sonatas describing the lives of Jesus and Maria. This sonata is a set of variations composed over a ground bass.The fourth sonata belongs to the Joyful Mysteries and the eight bar ostinato bass as the musical foundation builds a heartfelt theme. The Rosenkranzsonaten are a monument in the 17th Century works written for violin, not only for the fact that each sonata is written for a differently tuned violin but for the heavy narrative imbued in each of these sonatas.
We have tried to symbolise the equality and intimacy offered in this fantastic music by recording and producing it ourselves in the atmospheric surroundings of Glasgow Cathedral.


The Swiss violinist Sabine Stoffer performs as a baroque violinist throughout Europe. She plays with different ensembles in the UK and abroad (Les Passions de l’Ame, Brecon Baroque, Le Concert d’Astrée, Freitagsakademie u.a.) and is a member of the Ensemble Meridiana. Her further chamber music groups include the duo Libro I with the lutenist Alex McCartney, the Ensemble Otium and The Poker Club Band. Furthermore, she plays as a leader with La Nuova Musica, Cantus Firmus and Le phénix.

Her career has taken her to many festivals, such as the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music London, the Händel Festspiele Göttingen, the York Early Music Festival, the Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht or the Davos Festival ‚young artists in concert’. She has played with conductors such as René Jacobs, Masaaki Suzuki, Richard Egarr, Emmanuelle Haïm, Andrea Marcon and Jos van Immerseel.

Sabine also works as a teacher for Baroque Violin at the Musikschule Konsi Bern and organises her own festival Kapellenkonzerte in Arni since 2007 as well as a series of concerts in Rüttihubelbad since 2018.

Sabine is the winner of the Kiefer Hablitzel Stiftung 2008, the Marianne und Curt Dienemann – Stiftung 2008, the Steinitz Bach Prize 2009 and the ‚Göttinger Reihe Historischer Musik’ 2010/11 of the Händel – Gesellschaft Göttingen (with Meridiana). In 2011 she received the ‚Coup de Coeur’ award for the promotion of young musicians from her hometown canton of Berne.

She plays on a baroque violin by the French violin maker Patrick Robin.

Sabine Stoffer ist als Barockgeigerin im In- und Ausland tätig. Sie ist Geigerin des Ensembles Meridiana, spielt bei Les Passions de l’Ame, in Rachel Podgers Ensemble Brecon Baroque und ist beim englischen Ensemble La Nuova Musica als Stimmführerin tätig. Zu ihren Kammermusikgruppen gehören das Duo Libro I mit dem Lautenisten Alex McCartney, das Ensemble Otium und The Poker Club Band. Als Konzertmeisterin spielt sie bei Cantus Firmus und Le phénix und tritt mit verschiedenen Orchestern wie Le Concert d’Astrée, Die Freitagsakademie oder La Cetra auf.

Auftritte als Kammermusikerin führten sie zu Festivals wie den Händel Festspielen Göttingen, den Musikfestspielen Potsdam, dem Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht, dem Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music London und dem Brecon Baroque Festival, wo sie als Solistin zusammen mit Rachel Podger auftrat. Sie spielte unter Dirigenten wie René Jacobs, Masaaki Suzuki, Richard Egarr, Emmanuelle Haïm, Andrea Marcon und Jos van Immerseel.

Nebst ihrer aktiven Konzerttätigkeit ist Sabine auch als Pädagogin und Organisatorin anzutreffen. Seit Februar 2018 unterrichtet sie Barockvioline an der Musikschule Konsi Bern. Sie kümmert sich um das Festival „Kapellenkonzerte“, welches seit 2007 jährlich in der Kulturkapelle Arni stattfindet und um vier Konzerte Alter Musik im Rüttihubelbad.

Sie ist Preisträgerin der Kiefer Hablitzel Stiftung (2008), der Marianne und Curt Dienemann – Stiftung (2008) und Gewinnerin des Steinitz Bach Prize 2009 sowie des Nachwuchswettbewerbs ‚Göttinger Reihe Historischer Musik’ 2010/11 der Händel – Gesellschaft Göttingen (mit Meridiana). 2011 wurde ihr der Nachwuchsförderpreis „Coup de Coeur“ des Kantons Bern verliehen.

Sie spielt auf einer Barockvioline des französischen Geigenbauers Patrick Robin.

Continually in demand as an accompanist and soloist, Alex McCartney has performed extensively in the UK and abroad, working regularly with artists such as Emma Kirkby, The English Concert, The Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Early Opera Company, His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, Poeticall Musicke, La Nuova Musica and the Royal Ballet. Alex also often performs live via radio and television.
Alex is regularly recorded and is a resident artist with his own record label Veterum Musica. Amongst an array of recordings, some featuring his ensemble Poeticall Musicke, Alex has recently recorded his debut solo album of works by the lesser known composer Rene Mesangeau: due to be released later this year. Future solo projects include albums of works by Giovanni Kapsberger for theorbo, and early guitar music by Fernando Sor.
Occasionally Alex consults and teaches for film and television productions, the most recent being an adaptation of ‘Wolf Hall’ by the BBC due to be broadcast in December 2014. In addition to on-set consultancy, Alex had the challenge of teaching the actors Damian Lewis and Max Fowler to play the lute to a professional standard in the short space of one month.
In his spare time Alex enjoys making lutes in his studio in Glasgow.

Alex McCartney spielt ausgiebig als Kammermusiker und Solist in England und im Ausland, wobei er regelmässig mit Künstlern wie Emma Kirkby, The English Concert, The Academy of Ancient Music, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Early Opera Company, His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, Poeticall Musicke, La Nuova Musica und dem Royal Ballet zusammenarbeitet. Alex tritt ausserdem oft live im Radio und TV auf.

Alex spielt regelmässig bei Aufnahmen mit und ist Artist in Residence bei seinem eigenen CD-Label Veterum Musica. Unter der grossen Anzahl Aufnahmen, einige davon mit seinem Ensemble Poeticall Musicke, befindet sich sein kürzlich aufgenommenes Debütsoloalbum mit Werken des unbekannten Komponisten Rene Mesangeau: die CD wird dieses Jahr veröffentlicht. Zukünftige Soloprojekte beinhalten Werke für Theorbe von Giovanni Kapsberger und frühe Gitarrenmusik von Fernando Sor.

Gelegentlich berät und unterrichtet Alex bei Film – und TV Produktionen, zuletzt für eine BBC- Adaption von ‘Wolf Hall’, welche im Dezember 2014 ausgestrahlt wird. Zusätzlich zur Beratung am Set hatte Alex die Herausforderung, den Schauspielern Damian Lewis und Max Fowler in der kurzen Zeit eines Monats das Lautespielen auf einem professionellem Niveau beizubringen.

In seiner Freizeit baut Alex Lauten in seinem Studio in Glasgow.



Mondflugutopien und Phantastische Musik. Ein kommentiertes Konzert

Giovanni Paolo Cima (1575 – 1630): from ‚Concerti Ecclesiastici‘ (1610)
Adiuros vos, filiae Hierusalem
O dulcedo meliflua
Nativitas tua Dei genitrix
Confitemini Domino
Veni Sponso Christi
Michelangelo Galilei (1575 – 1631): Il Primo Libro D’Intavolatura di Liuto (1620)
Biagio Marini (1594 – 1663):  Sonata Quarta per sonar con due corde, op 8 (1629)

Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (1624 – 1687): Sonata Prima, op. 3, La Stella (1660)

Heinrich Litzkau: Sonata Violino Solo cum B.C. (1657)

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644 – 1704): Sonata V in e-moll (1681)

Bach – Weiss

Silvius Leopold Weiss(1687 – 1750)
aus: Suite in D-Dur für Laute Nr.22
Johann Sebastian Bach(1685 – 1750)
aus: Partita in d-Moll für Violine solo, BWV 1004
Silvius Leopold Weiss
aus: Suite in D-Dur für Laute Nr.22
Johann Sebastian Bach
aus Partita in d-Moll für Violine solo, BWV 1004
Silvius Leopold Weiss
aus: Suite in D-Dur für Laute Nr.22
Johann Sebastian Bach
aus Partita in d-Moll für Violine solo, BWV 1004
Silvius Leopold Weiss
aus: Suite in D-Dur für Laute Nr.22
Johann Sebastian Bach
aus Partita in d-Moll für Violine solo, BWV 1004
Silvius Leopold Weiss/ Johann Sebastian Bach
Suite in A major, BWV 1025 für Laute und Violine

Stylus Phantasticus

Toccatas and Assagii by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (158’ – 1651) and Nicola Matteis (um 1650 – 1703?) will be performed between pieces.

Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (um 1620 – 1669)

Sonate à Violinosolo, op.3

Nr.2 ‚La Cesta’

Isabella Leonarda (1620 – 1704)

Sonate a 1,2,3,4 Istromenti op.decima sesta, Bologna 1693

Sonata duodecima

Giovanni Battista Fontana (158′ – 163′)

Sonata Seconda

Antonio Bertali (1605 – 1669)

Ciaccona in C major

Biagio Marini (1594 – 1663)

Per sonar con due Corde

Sonata quarta

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644 – 1704)

Rosenkranzsonaten, 1670

Nr.IV, Ciaccona ‚The presentation’

The Roman Violin

Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)

Violin Sonatas op V:

Sonata I in D major (12’)

Grave – Allegro – Adagio – Grave – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro

Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli (1699/1700 – 1773)

Twelve Sonate da camera 1729

Sonata II in d minor

Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Andante – Aria


Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)

Violin Sonatas op V:

Sonata III in C major (12’)

Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Allegro

Johan Helmich Roman (1694 – 1758)

Assaggi à Violino Solo (7’)

Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)

Violin Sonatas op V:

Sonata V in g minor (10’)

Adagio – Vivace – Adagio – Vivace – Allegro 

Himmlische Mysterien

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644 – 1704): The Mystery Sonatas

The Joyful Mysteries:

I The Annunciation

Praeludium – Variatio – Aria Allegro – Adagio – Finale

II The Visitation

Sonata – Allaman – Presto

III The Nativity

Sonata – Courente – Double – Adagio

IV The Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple


V The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus

Praeludium – Allaman – Guigue – Saraban – Double