Andreas Vollenweider

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Andreas Vollenweider
Andreas Vollenweider.jpg
Background information
Born (1953-10-04) 4 October 1953 (age 60)
Zürich, Switzerland
Genres World, Classical, Jazz fusion, Indian, New-age
Labels Edel Records
Kin-Kou Music
Content Records
CBS Records
Columbia/CBS Records
Sony Classical/SME Records
SBK/EMI Records
Notable instruments
modified electroacoustic pedal harp

Andreas Vollenweider (born October 4, 1953) is a Swiss musician. His music has been categorized as World Music, Jazz fusion, New Age, and even Classical; two of his albums were No.1 on the Billboard charts simultaneously in the categories Classical, Jazz, Pop, and Crossover for more than 11 weeks. His primary instrument is an modified, electroacoustic harp of his own design, but he also plays a wide variety of instruments from around the world, including the Chinese guzheng and the African harp the kora. His albums feature many musicians performing his compositions with him, ranging from solos to suites for orchestra and soloists. His music is mostly instrumental but he has occasionally forayed into vocal music as well.

His past collaborators include Bobby McFerrin, Carly Simon, Djivan Gasparyan, Eliza Gilkyson, Luciano Pavarotti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Carlos Núñez, Ray Anderson, and Milton Nascimento.

Politically, Andreas Vollenweider is an outspoken pacifist and follower of the principles of non-violent conflict management of Mahatma Gandhi. On his website[1] he features quotes from Gandhi (among others), and in an effort to spread awareness of the American war in Iraq, he has also posted a ticker reflecting the current number of casualties in the conflict, both American and Iraqi.


Early life[edit]

Details about Vollenweider's early life were not widely available as of the middle of September of 2014. He was known to be the son of Hans Vollenweider, an organist. (In 1990, the two collaborated on the selections of the album Traumgarten.)


In 1975, Vollenweider discovered the harp and, finding its traditional versions too limited for his own musical ideas, developed his own style, tailoring the instrument according to his needs. Thus, he created a new instrument for himself: the electro-acoustic harp. Vollenweider composed for film, theater and TV productions.

The year 1979 marked his Swiss debut album, Eine Art Suite in XIII Teilen, which came to be considered the "cradle" of the Vollenweider sound. It was believed to be at this time that he formed his musical team, “Andreas Vollenweider And Friends.”

Two years later, in 1981, Andreas Vollenweider & Friends performed their first show, at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival. The following autumn saw the release of the album Behind the Gardens - Behind the Wall - Under the Tree..., which proved to be a success with both critics and the audience, putting Vollenweider's distinct sound on the map.

In 1983, he emphasised his commitment to the environmental and peace movements with the single "Pace Verde" ("Peace Green") and its much-talked about video, both for the Greenpeace environmental and pacifistic organization. In the same year, he received an Edison Award in Amsterdam for his innovative sound. A year later, his 1983 album White Winds broke through in no fewer than three United States charts--in the pop, classical and jazz categories.

Vollenweider's first American tour was hugely successful. He played for sold-out venues on his 1985 US tour, conquering New York's Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

In 1987, Vollenweider's album Down To The Moon, which he had originally recorded and released in 1984, received a Grammy Award. This was followed by tours in Canada, the United States, thirteen European countries, Japan and Australia.

When he composed the music of, and recorded, the dynamic album Dancing With The Lion in 1988 and 1989, Vollenweider opened his project, for the first time in his career, to numerous guests from a wide range of musical genres. He directed and produced two award-winning videos, one of which was for the title selection; for both videos, he also contributed to the storyline, the choreography, and the set and costume designs.

Vollenweider's double album The Trilogy, released in 1990, consisted of a selection of the first three albums (Behind The Gardens, Caverna Magica, and White Winds) and previously unreleased material. In 1991, he followed up The Trilogy with Book of Roses. On this album, Vollenweider included symphonic orchestral elements for the first time.

In 1992, he participated in a benefit show for Chernobyl's children on Moscow's Red Square. The same year, he won the World Music Award in Monaco.

Over the following two years, 1993 and 1994, for the first time, Vollenweider produced an album which included vocals; the 1993-1994 album Eolian Minstrel featured contributions from American singers Carly Simon and Eliza Gilkyson. The release was followed by worldwide tours.

In 1994, Vollenweider performed at the Pavarotti and Friends event in Modena, Italy, where he played duets with operatic lyric tenor Luciano Pavarotti (a native of Modena) and Canadian rock balladeer Bryan Adams.

After conducting tours and open-air shows in Europe and the United States, Vollenweider played in Latin America for the first time in his career. This was in 1995.

The years 1995 to 1997 saw Vollenweider playing a series of shows in remarkable locations: a tour of Polish castles, a show with Italian singer/songwriter Zucchero at the 2500 m high location (at -8 Celsius) of Brunico in the Southern Alps, and in a giant volcanic cave at Lanzarote's Festival Musica Visual.

In 1998, Vollenweider began the recording of Kryptos, a work for symphonic orchestras and guest virtuosos from all over the world. Parts of Kryptos were performed with the RAI orchestra at Italy's San Remo Festival. Vollenweider also initiated a symphonic live project which he called Wolkenstein.

In 1999, Vollenweider returned to free improvisation and intimate musical dialogues with his album COSMOPOLY. He invited friends from all over the globe to create “world music” in the true sense of the phrase; these friends included the American vocal acrobat Bobby McFerrin, the Brazilian cult poet and singer Milton Nascimento, the South-African ethno-jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, the 74-year old Armenian duduk legend Djivan Gasparyan, the Galician bag-pipe and whistle virtuoso Carlos Nuñez, the American singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and the American blues-trombone master Ray Anderson.

All through 2000, as he travelled with the COSMOPOLY project through Europe, its almost daily changing configuration of musicians enabled Vollenweider to follow the open concept of the album. In New York City, he and his friends played two concerts for the release of COSMOPOLY in the United States. This time, Vollenweider's friend Carly Simon joined the group, as did Mind Jostyn, Carlos Nuñez, Djivan Gasparian, XiaoJing Wang and Walter Keiser. Concerts in Brazil with Milton Nascimento and composer/pianist Wagner Tiso followed.

In 2001, Vollenweider performed in Bali (Indonesia) at the international conference "song of convergence" with Balinese musicians. He also began writing the "symphonic novel" Tales of Kira Kutan, which premiered at the Warsaw Film Music Festival 2001, with the orchestra Sinfonia Varsowia (Yehudi Menuhin), conducted by co-orchestrator André Bellmont. In September, he performed in Athens, Greece, at the old Olympic stadium, where he premiered the theater-piece SOCRATES - dawn of civilization, in which the American actor Rod Steiger starred as Socrates. Vollenweider's large scale soundtrack was a dramatic blend of sound design, choirs and percussion.

Returning to his native Switzerland, Vollenweider premiered Carte blanche at the AVO Festival in Basel, where his guests, in addition to a mini orchestra, included Abdullah Ibrahim and David Lindley.

In 2002, he performed at the Budapest Spring Festival in Hungary. Performances of the symphonies Tales of Kira Kutan and Wolkenstein at the Festival "Live at Sunset" in Zurich, with Sinfonia Varsovia, followed, as did a European summer tour, with the newly formed AVAF-mini orchestra, that included a performance at the "Big Chill Festival" in England and continued that fall. It was also at this time that he collaborated with German film composer Hans Zimmer, in Los Angeles, on the music score for the movie Tears of the Sun, which starred Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci. In the following year, 2003, he continued his work with Zimmer. A performance followed, with his mini orchestra, in South Africa's Johannesburg and at the "North Sea Festival" in Kapetown, one notable guest performer was Pops Mohamed.

In 2004 and 2005, AVAF continued to increase touring activities in Europe. At this time, Vollenweider's entire catalogue was re-mastered and re-released on new record labels worldwide (USA/Canada:; international: A compilation, The Best of "Magic Harp, was released in the United States and Canada, and "The Storyteller" was released in Europe. A four-hour DVD was also produced; in the United States, the DVI was released in March of 2006; its international release took place in October of 2006. Vollenweider played for HH, the Dalai Lama, when the latter paid a visit in Zurich.

In the fall of 2005, Vollenweider released the album VOX. It was unique, amongst his albums, in that it featured his own voice.

In the first three months of 2006, following extensive touring in Europe, Vollenweider conducted his first tour of the US in over ten years, touring from coast to coast. At that time, he also released his first DVD, The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider, which contained almost four hours of live concerts, documentaries, interviews. During the summer of that year, he recorded a new album, titled Midnight Clear, in which he again collaborated with Carly Simon. (See above for his previous collaborations with her.) The last three months of 2006 saw Vollenweider touring in Europe, in addition to his release of Midnight Clear on a worldwide basis and that of the DVD The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider in the rest of the world.

The year 2007 saw Vollenweider draw his third nomination for a Grammy Award for the soundtrack album of the current DVD release The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider. Concerts in Europe and the United States followed, as did, in September of that year, the release of the two-CD double album Andreas Vollenweider & Friends - 25 Years Live, which covered the period from 1982 to 2007.

In 2008, during his composition of the music for, and his recording of, the album A I R, Vollenweider was a guest performer at the celebration concert for the 80th birthday of Armenian duduk legend Jivan Gasparyan. Other contributors and guests were Great Britain's Peter Gabriel, the Alan Parsons Project, and Zucchero.

The year 2009 saw the release of A I R, followed by concerts with the Frischluft Orchester ("Fresh Air Orchestra") all around Europe. Performances in August at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa followed.

During 2010, Vollenweider gave concerts in Eastern and Western Europe. In June, he undertook a special concert project, which he titled The Watercourse Way, at the Shanghai Centre in Shanghai, China, as part of EXPO 2010. A "Dream Concert" of the extended AVAF followed in August, as did the "Dancing With The Lion Orchestra" concert in a huge tent on the shore of the Lake of Zurich; it featured an impressive "family gathering" of friends of Vollenweider’s music from all corners of the world. In October, AVAF travelled to South Africa again, to perform at the MACUFE Festival in Bloemfontein as well as at the Carnival City arena in Johannesburg, followed by a remarkable concert for the inmates of Pollsmore Prison in Cape Town, one of the world’s largest high security penitentiaries.

In 2011, three decades after AVAF’s very first concert in the same place, Vollenweider gladly accepted the invitation of Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs to perform an exclusive jubilee concert, on 7 July, at the 45th such Festival, titled "30 Years Andreas Vollenweider & Friends." Special guests were bassist/vocalist Richard Bona and guitarist/vocalist Raul Midon.

In 2012, AVAF played at the farewell concert for Claude Nobs, who had died in January of that year.

Over 2012, 2013, and 2014, Vollenweider worked on a new album and commenced to explore new creative territory.


References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Andreas Vollenweider website