Widely admired as a virtuoso exponent of the viola da gamba through his concert performances and recordings of key composers from Germany, France, Spain, England and his native Italy, Paolo Pandolfo has in recent years been developing the instincts and skills for improvising and composing. He began his research in the field of renaissance and baroque musical idioms around 1979 along with violinist Enrico Gatti and harpsichordist Rinaldo Alessandrini. Studies with Jordi Savall at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland were followed by membership of Savall’s Hespèrion XX between 1982 and 1990. A highly successful recording of the CPE Bach Sonatas for viola da gamba (on Tactus) in 1990 saw Pandolfo nominated as Professor of viola da gamba at his alma mater, the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, where he has been concentrating his teaching activities ever since.
Since 1997 all of Paolo Pandolfo’s recordings have appeared on Glossa. The odyssey commenced with the first complete recording of Antoine Forqueray’s Pièces de Viole, followed by discs devoted to the music of Tobias Hume, Marin Marais (Le Labyrinthe et autres histoires was devoted to character music whilst Grand Ballet focused on Marais’ gestures and dance music) and Sainte-Colombe. Pandolfo has regularly ventured beyond the realms of Renaissance and Baroque notated music for his instrument; he achieved a notable success with his own transcription of the six Bach Solo Suites and recorded an unaccompanied recital, A Solo. Travel Notes and Improvisando have further demonstrated Pandolfo’s command of the possibilities of the viola da gamba as a composer himself.
His performing activities have taken him all over the world, playing with artists such as Emma Kirkby, Rolf Lislevand, Rinaldo Alessandrini, Mitzi Meyerson, José Miguel Moreno and many others. He has been described as the Yo Yo Ma of the viol. Since 1992 he has been directing Labyrinto, a group of four or five viola da gambas, which is dedicated to the huge consort music repertoire.
Paolo Pandolfo builds bridges between the past and the present, bringing spontaneous and immediate life in the performance of baroque and renaissance music using medias such as improvisation, transcriptions and composition of modern pieces, being convinced that the patrimony of ancient music can be a powerful inspiration for the future of the western musical tradition.
Paolo Pandolfo has dedicated so much energy over the years to the presence of the viola da gamba from the Baroque era that it is curious that, until now, he has not provided us with his interpretation of the major works for that instrument by one of France’s leading composers from that time: François Couperin. Together with his own colleagues (Amélie Chemin, playing a second viola da gamba, Thomas Boysen, theorbo and Baroque guitar and Markus Hünninger, harpsichord), Paolo Pandolfo has now turned to the Pièces de violes and to two Concerts from the 1724 collection Les Goûts réunis (which specifically call for the viol) to demonstrate the quality of Couperin’s contribution to the viol literature. Here Pandolfo talks about his relationship to the music and the technical and interpretative challenges posed for the modern player by François Couperin le grand. [read more...]
In each new recording that he makes of viola da gamba music (and that includes his own ‘contemporary’ offerings such as Improvisando), Paolo Pandolfo has a knack of reaching for and grasping the essence from within the musical scores in front of him. It is not just his technical mastery or an allied assiduous study of the sources – be it of Bach or Marais or Abel – but that more intangible ability to make such music – as here with four Suites by ‘Le Sieur de Machy’ from 1685 – jump off the page and come alive. De Machy’s world was that of Paris in the heyday of Le roi soleil, Louis XIV, and for all that the composer’s biography is today somewhat scant and shadowy (what was his first name? We do not know for sure), his Suites forming the Pièces de Violle vividly and vivaciously reflect the luxuriance and exuberance of the end of the 17th century in France, particularly through the means of dancing.[read more...]
Along with Paolo Pandolfo’s new recording of the Bach Viola da gamba Sonatas we are providing an opportunity to see and hear this thoughtful and thought-provoking musician talking about his current approach to the music of JS Bach; in particular, to what he considers as ‘new music’ (Sonatas) written by the composer for an old instrument (the viola da gamba) as compared to the Six Cello Suites, which were ‘old music’ for a new instrument. Pandolfo has also recorded these Cello Suites for Glossa. [read more...]
It seemed that the music of Carl Friedrich Abel was proving singularly impervious to modern performance initiatives. More is known about the life and times of this Köthen-born composer than about his actual music (he can be placed as a pupil of JS Bach and as someone who died in the year of the 17 year-old Beethoven’s first visit to Vienna). Yet it was as a virtuosic improviser on the by then (surely?) outdated instrument of the viola da gamba that Abel was equally known for by his contemporaries. So, the most suitable candidate in the 21st century for bringing back Abel’s music to its rightful place needs to be not only a supreme interpreter on the viola da gamba and steeped in its repertory but one capable of understanding the almost lost art of improvisation. [read more...]
Widely admired as a virtuoso exponent of the viola da gamba through his concert performances and recordings of key composers from Germany, France, Spain, England and his native Italy, Paolo Pandolfo has in recent years been concentrating on his instincts and skills for improvising and composing (not to mention continuing with his teaching). An artist who can bring out the expressive vitality and poetry in the viol music of composers such as Sainte-Colombe, Marin Marais or J.S. Bach is plainly also relishing the challenges of other musical explorations that have included, on disc, an unaccompanied tour de force in A Solo and a travelogue (from this artist who is a modern, high-tech nomad himself) in Travel Notes. [read more...]