Paolo Pandolfo is a virtuoso on the viola da gamba, and his usual repertoire includes the Bach cello suites. But he is also a passionate advocate of the art of improvisation, and this CD is devoted to 15 pieces that he and an ensemble including harpsichord, organ, theorbo, vihuela, violone, and voice improvised together. The concept of a classical musician improvising in this day and age is, if not unheard of, extremely rare.
Johann Sebastian Bach's sonatas for viola da gamba and obbligato harpsichord belong to those central works of the gamba repertory with which every generation, every ambitious player, must come to terms anew. Their technical demands and compositional complexity make the sonatas' interpretation a delicate task and, at the same time, a major challenge.
Gamba virtuoso Paolo Pandolfo previously showed his powerful affinity for Bach on a 1994 Harmonia Mundi recording of the Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord. Here, he offers his ambitious adaptations for gamba of the six Suites for Solo Cello–a project that if nothing else reveals both the felicities and awkward, ungraceful incompatibilities of this kinship of instruments and stylistic traditions.
The confidential, almost secretive, musical world of François Couperin is known through the innumerable emotional connections made in his harpsichord works, but he was also able to produce the same sensations when writing for the viola da gamba. Paolo Pandolfo has brought together on one new album on Glossa these works of Couperin’s full maturity, demonstrating the composer’s spiritual and mischievous tendencies in equal measure (as well as his own mastery of the subtleties of the gamba).
More Tobias Hume can never be a bad thing. In an age of odd composers – Carlo Gesualdo was, after all, his almost exact contemporary – Hume still stands as one of the oddest composers of his time or any other. He was, after all, surely the only composer who spent his life as a mercenary and one of the few composers who died in the poor house.