After Paul Coletti’s New York début viola recital, the New York Times praised his ‘mastery and impeccable technique’ and proclaimed him a ‘remarkable, elegant, distinct artistic personality’. Born in Scotland to Italian parents, he studied at the Royal Scottish Academy; the International Menuhin Music Academy with Alberto Lysy, Sándor Végh and Yehudi Menuhin; then at the Juilliard School in New York with Dorothy DeLay, Felix Galimir and Zoltán Székely. Such was his prowess that he was appointed Head of Strings at the University of Washington at the age of twentyfive. Since then he has taught at numerous other American institutions.
Coletti has an international performing profile, having made solo appearances at the Sydney Opera House, Queen Elizabeth Hall (London), Berlin Philharmonie, Lincoln Center (New York) and Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires). His performance activities include conducting, appearing most notably with the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo. In addition he has directed music videos for a number of show business personalities such as Leonard Nimoy and appears regularly as a guest on television. Continuing a tradition that has to a large extent expired, he also composes music for his instrument.
His discography comprises over thirty CDs some of which have won awards. One of his most notable releases is Hyperion’s English Music for Viola (1993), which includes works by Bax, Bridge, Rebecca Clarke and Grainger. Coletti’s performances here are impassioned and well-judged dramatically, adapting appropriately to context in an album of complementary works. His dark, brooding Bax Legend contrasts with the lighter textures of Clarke’s exquisite Lullaby No. 1, whilst Clarke’s Sonata is the pivotal work on this deservedly well-received disc. Coletti’s style is conventional, but the scope of his musical ideas and melodic shaping distinguish his approach, suiting the often languid yet intense melodic writing of these early twentieth-century British composers.
Less instinctive stylistically is Coletti’s Mendelssohn C minor Sonata (1997), but his playing is still impressive, especially in the thrilling and precise moto perpetuo. Coletti and Howard also recorded Berlioz’s Harold en Italie in a colourful and impassioned rendition of the Liszt transcription that was little known at the time of this recording in 1992.
Coletti’s recordings certainly live up to the adulation of the New York Times, and he proves a compelling and fluent interpreter of Romantic and early twentieth-century repertoire, with an immaculate technique and sensitive yet charismatic bearing.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)