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Paolo Pandolfo and Thomas Boysen present concert and master classes at Collection of Musical Instruments

March 15, 2011

By Susan Thompson, curator

The Italian viola da gamba virtuoso Paolo Pandolfo was joined by the masterful Norwegian lutenist and guitarist Thomas C. Boysen in a concert at the Collection of Musical Instruments on Sunday, 27 February 2011.

Their program, which was entitled La Viole Luthée, featured “musical conversations” in the Renaissance style (an improvised fantasia, an improvisation on a cantus firmus, and an improvisation on a ground) that were followed by music of the French composers Le Sieur St. Colombe (ca. 1640-1700?) and Marin Marais (ca. 1656-1728), both of whom were highly skilled and greatly admired players of the viola da gamba in their day.

According to Pandolfo, the bass viola da gamba was “the instrument of choice for improvisation in the sixteenth century” because, “if mastered in the bravura and sprezzatura styles, [it] could move through all the registers of polyphony… Excellent violists such as Oratio Bassani, Ricardo Rogniono, Girolamo dalla Casa, and Claudio Monteverdi developed an amazing talent for improvising on harmonic grounds, plain chants, and madrigals.”

Shortly after the concert, Pandolfo and Boysen presented separate master classes on their respective instruments. School of Music students in attendance were awed by the pair’s artistry, many observing that their imaginative and introspective powers were exceptional. All marveled at the musicians’ attention to detail and the means through which they were able to explore the tonal parameters of their instruments.

Both Boysen and Pandolfo stressed the importance of utilizing harmonic (as opposed to metric) rhythm when establishing compositional structure and determining linear flow; and both reiterated a fundamental basic to all music making: Every note has a beginning, middle and end, but no two notes need be played the same.

Although the presentation of masterclasses by visiting artists has long been part of the museum’s educational program, the number of classes offered has increased over the past three years. These classes, which are free and open to the public, are generally scheduled in conjunction with the appearance of professional artists on the Collection’s concert series.

For more information, please visit the Collection’s website or contact Nicholas Renouf at 203 432-0825 or Beth Wiese at 203 432-0822.