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.
In this wide-ranging video interview, given in Basle (where Pandolfo teaches at the Schola Cantorum) this Roman artist reveals how he now favours the spirit of a ‘musical conversation’ in the three Viola da gamba Sonatas, a dialogue between the stringed instrument and the harpsichordist (this latter role being taken by Markus Hünninger). The new album from Pandolfo also has him providing obbligato viola da gamba accompaniment in two Bach Passions arias for eminent singers Michael Chance and Harry van der Kamp.
That wide range of the interview sees Pandolfo also talking about his youthful music-making, which took in instruments as diverse as the piano, electric guitar and the double bass, playing folk music, rock and roll and jazz – as well as playing in the European Community Youth Orchestra under the illustrious batons of Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan – before he turned his talents to the viola da gamba.
And the spirit of jazz in the form of improvisation appears in the interview when Pandolfo is asked about whether he will be returning to the “Travel Notes” project (which he clearly enjoyed as much as did many of his fans). The answer is, “yes”, so watch this space...
The idea of improvisation turns up again in another segment of this interview, which is devoted to another of Paolo Pandolfo’s recent releases: “The Drexel Manuscript” by Carl Friedrich Abel. Abel (1723-1787) was a pupil of JS Bach and his skill as a virtuoso on the viola da gamba clearly impressed both Charles Burney and one of Bach’s sons, Johann Christian. According to Pandolfo, that virtuosity is clearly evident in the suites of the Drexel Manuscript, to the point that certain places demand improvisation from the performer. And Pandolfo, whose own improvisatory skills are much respected, believes that it is more truthful to the composition to so improvise than to just ‘play the notes of the score’. And Pandolfo also muses on the Romantic nature of Abel as a performing artist.
Text by Mark Wiggins © 2010 Glossa Music / MusiContact
Interview, part 1: Paolo Pandolfo about Carl Friedrich Abel's music for the viola da gamba
Interview, part 2: Paolo Pandolfo about Johann Sebastian Bach's music for the viola da gamba