Canadian cellist Ofra Harnoy is one of the best-known performers on her instrument worldwide. She has given concerts on five continents and has played at the request of Charles, Prince of Wales; President Bill Clinton; three Canadian Prime Ministers; and several times for the Imperial Japanese family.
Harnoy was not born in Canada but in Israel, daughter to Jacob Harnoy, a classical record producer and compulsive record collector whose holdings run to more than 30,000 items. She received her first instruction on the cello from her father, who is a violinist; more serious studies were undertaken with Vladimir Orlov after Harnoy immigrated with her family to Canada. Harnoy made her debut in Toronto at the age of 10; at 14 she participated in the Aldeburgh Festival, where she met her idol cellist Jacqueline Du Pré and then studied for three years with Du Pré's teacher William Pleeth. In 1982 Harnoy won an International Concert Artist's Guild Award, and in 1983 Musical America magazine named her its "young musician of the year."
Harnoy has enjoyed the benefits of a long (by postmodern standards) association with a major label, BMG Classics, beginning in 1987. These recordings elicited considerable comment, not so much from the music involved as from the dolled-up, glamour-conscious photos on the front covers of the releases. Some critics carped about Harnoy's pop star appearance, and in doing so missed the brave stand Harnoy made for neglected and significant cello music -- Harnoy recorded nearly all of the Vivaldi concertos, the mega-difficult Offenbach concerto, and works by Viotti, Myslivecek, and Lalo.
Harnoy's work for BMG Classics concluded after 15 releases in 1999, ending so abruptly that it stranded her recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto. A couple of years earlier Harnoy likewise broke free from the influence of her father Jacob Harnoy, who had acted as her manager. Although recordings have not figured into her later career, Harnoy has continued in teaching master classes and in concertizing, an activity she enjoys the most among her endeavors. As Harnoy once stated in an interview; "The only time I really feel that I'm making music is when I'm performing. I love feeling the vibrations of the audience, when they hold their breath through the silences, which is when I really feel a bond. It's an incredible experience."
This album presents a number of tried and true Baroque favourites on the cello, such as Bach's "Air" from Orchestral Suite No. 3, "Bist Du Bei Mir," as well as some slightly lesser known gems from composers such as Allegri and Corelli, which Ofra Harnoy interprets with the profound musicality and passion she is known for.
In Ofra's early Baroque recordings, many works were accompanied with organ, chamber orchestra, or harpsichord. For this album, however, rather than revisiting the conventional settings for these works, she has decided to use brass as accompaniment for some works, and, for the works by Telemann and Allegri, has created a cello ensemble through overdubbing and multi-tracking techniques. As much as it is a treat to hear her play this music as soloist, that joy is multiplied in hearing her play each of the nine voices of Allegri's Miserere.