Irresistible Vertigo: Cellist Ophélie Gaillard’s Vivaldi

Mar 9, 2020

Franco-Swiss cellist Ophélie Gaillard floats and flies through Vivaldi’s emotional world in a brand-new recording with her Pulcinella Orchestra, and it’s our CD of the Week!

In 2018, Cellist Ophélie Gaillard was walking near her home just outside of Paris when a stranger with a knife forced her to hand over her precious instrument, a 1737 Francesco Goffriller cello, worth well over a million dollars. In the horror of that instant, she felt as if her voice had been taken from her – that she couldn’t live anymore. The emptiness was unbearable. Then came a massive show of public solidarity and compassion through social media, which must have forced the assailant to realize the value of his haul and the difficulty he’d have in selling it. Two days later, he broke into a car, put the cello in the backseat, and let Ophélie know its whereabouts.

It’s been two years since Gaillard went through that trauma, and since then, she has released recordings of music by Richard Strauss, Luigi Boccherini, and Brazilian singer/guitarist/composer Toquinho. Now, it’s a thrill to hear the cello again, immersed in the moody world of Vivaldi.

Il Colori dell’Ombra features the joyous precision that radiates from the Pulcinella Orchestra, founded by Gaillard herself in 2005. For a cellist with such a healthy curiosity for music across the ages and around the world, it’s no surprise that she revels in the touching and colorful range of emotional material in Vivaldi’s music.

Gaillard has chosen concertos for one, two, and four performers, mixing in two remarkable vocal arias (with cello lines that weave and imitate in a breathtaking way), and a sinfonia for strings. Gaillard writes wonderful liner notes, too, touching on the mysteries of time, space, and light in Venice and even wondering whether it just might be possible that Vivaldi’s star student Teresa could have played her own beloved Gofriller cello. Recorded here for the first time is a reconstruction of the slow movement from the cello concerto that Vivaldi wrote for Teresa (CD 2, track 4). The Pulcinella Orchestra and Gaillard work instinctively together in a condensed drama that comes and goes like a storm cloud. (Put your headphones on and feel the sheer depth of the three-dimensional space they’ve managed to create!)

Don’t miss the very last track (CD2, track 12)! It’s Vivaldi up to his propulsive mischief, beginning with a mesmerizing bass line, then adding layer after improvisatory layer, like jazz players trading fours. At the end, it all melts back down to that earworm of a bass line. Fantastic.

Get a taste of Ophélie Gaillard’s far-ranging tastes with this video of Piazzola’s Grand Tango:

And here she is with her Pulcinella Orchestra rehearsing Boccherini:

To sample tracks and to purchase this recording, visit Amazon Music.