De Machy Suites

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Le Sieur de Machy
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: De Machy Suites
WORKS: Suites nos 1, 4, 5 & 8
PERFORMER: Paolo Pandolfo (viola de gamba)


The shadowy Monsieur de Machy is usually relegated to a footnote in music history books for his furious polemic against the composer and theorist Jean Rousseau. De Machy staunchly supported the viol as an autonomous, harmonic instrument, while Rousseau argued that it was merely a melodic one. Belying Machy’s bad-tempered prose, this disc reveals a charming and poetic composer, whose dance suites resonate with rich harmonies, embellishments, arabesques, and a wide range of emotions, from melancholy to the capricious.

Paolo Pandolfo’s hotshot dexterity clearly conveys Machy’s chameleon-like character and the versatility of his instrument, which imitates a variety of sounds, from lute and jazzy bass, to birdsong and the human voice. Indeed, Pandolfo coaxes an array of shades and effects and lets the viol reverberate with Machy’s plush musical textures; at times it is hard to believe only one instrument is playing.

Above all, though, Pandolfo makes the music dance with his supple bowing, elastic rhythms, dainty ornaments, floated notes and silence. Short of wearing pointe shoes, he could hardly make these performances more balletic. The recording captures the music’s detail as well as the viol’s naturally sonorous timbre – even the curmudgeonly Machy would surely be enchanted.


Kate Bolton