In the art of the celebrated viola da gamba (viol) virtuoso, Paolo Pandolfo
, past and present can coexist in a musical process as timeless as it is creative. The process— improvisation—debunks the notion of watertight historical periods and breathes new life into the long-forgotten performance practices of Early Music, striking chords with more familiar sounds of our own era. The material upon which he constructs his variations and improvisations is varied, anything from a Renaissance theme to a jazz bassline, an eclecticism also evident in a wide-ranging programme which includes works of his own composition.
At the core of the programme, viola da gamba compositions of the French Baroque reveal the extraordinary flowering the instrument enjoyed in 17thcentury France. Most are extracts from suites by Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe
and Marin Marais
—the crème de la crème of a generation of virtuoso composers whose works exploited the full potential of an instrument that could match the human voice in expressive power. The two composers were master and pupil, with Marais honouring his teacher, the leading gambist of his age, by concluding one of his suites with the melancholy “Tomb for Sainte- Colombe”, fragments of which members of the audience may recognize from the film Tous les matins du monde
(1981), a singular recreation of the relationship between the two composers. Their deaths marked the end of an extraordinary blossoming of the instrument, which would gradually be marginalized by the cello, only to return to the fore in the 20th century with a new generation of gambists like Jordi Savall and Paolo Pandolfo.