The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Vindication for the work of a 17th-century French viol player and composer
Musicians: Paolo Pandolfo (viola da gamba)
Composer: De Machy

Paolo Pandolfo believes that scholars have grossly underestimated de Machy’s influence on his contemporaries and successors. He aims to set the record straight with these accounts of four of the eight suites that form the composer’s Pièces de violle (1685).

Pandolfo is a persuasive advocate of these suites, which, apart from their extended, unmeasured preludes, mostly follow the conventional sequence of dances. He is a master of the tenües – those notes that must be held for full appreciation of the polyphony – about which de Machy wrote so eloquently in his lengthy introduction to the volume. He is also substantially faithful to the composer’s detailed indications for bowing and fingering and often complex, elaborate ornamentation, and he interprets the rich chordal nature and style brisé (the ‘broken’ arpeggiated texture) of these pieces with a real empathy for the idiom.

Shapely cadences are lingered over and melodic lines breathe with freedom and elasticity, especially in the preludes. The dances are sharply characterised, especially the solemn allemandes, the vivacious gigues and the chaconne of no.4, the contrasted plucked and bowed notes of which are also a pleasing feature in other movements of that same suite. Every inflection of Pandolfo’s nuanced playing has been expertly recorded in an appropriately intimate church acoustic.