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.
Fifteen years after his recording of Bach’s three Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord (on hm, with Rinaldo Alessandrini), Paolo Pandolfo returns to this repertoire a new approach: the fruit of active and concentrated years of consideration, study and research into the inherent possibilities of his instrument. Given the basic differing natures of these two instruments, the performance of these works very often turns – in Pandolfo’s words – into a “musical argument”, rather than what is demanded by the music’s essential nature: a “musical conversation” in which the score achieves “transparency and eloquence”.
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).
Each stroke of the bow is a specific movement, and the challenge of the sound it produces is to breathe life into an imaginary choreography without which the music would lose its soul.