Andreas Vollenweider was one of the few musicians to gain superstar status as a "new age artist" back when the term was first used as a marketing category in the mid-'80s. The Swiss harpist, however, quickly transcended the need for alternative record sales when his albums simultaneously broached Billboard's pop, jazz, and classical charts in 1986. Born in Zurich in 1953, Vollenweider was ensconced in the city's fine art scene, courtesy of his father, one of Europe's leading organists. After becoming proficient on guitar, flute, and other instruments, the young Vollenweider developed a passion for the harp, which he modified to suit his needs. Not only did he construct a damper to expedite more rhythmic playing, he broadened the harp's tonal range by electrifying it. His buoyant funk beats, exotic pan-cultural influences, and colorful harp improvisations began to sweep Europe in the early '80s as Vollenweider signed with CBS Records to release Behind the Gardens...Behind the Wall. Three albums later, he won his first Grammy for 1987's Down to the Moon. Over the years, Vollenweider has managed to maintain his artistic integrity and vision despite increasing commercial success. The harpist's 1991 album Book of Roses is a testament to his ability to expand his scope as a composer while keeping his trademark sound intact; after a lenghty hiatus, he issued Kryptos in 1998, followed two years later by Cosmopoly. Numerous reissues and collection followed, including a new set of holiday material called Midnight Clear in 2006.
Biography by Linda Kohanov - Source: allmusic
Andreas Vollenweider was born on October 4th, 1953 in Zurich. His father Hans Vollenweider is one of Europe's leading organists. Andreas grew up in a creatively diverse and inspiring environment. Composing was always a key element of his musical development. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, he searched for 'his' instrument.
In 1975, he discovered the harp and 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, ballet and TV productions.
1979 marked his debut album "Eine Art Suite in XIII Teilen", which was considered as the cradle of the Vollenweider sound.
Two years later, in 1981, Andreas Vollenweider & Friends performed their first concert, 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...". This proved to be a success with both critics and the audience, putting Vollenweider's distinct sound on the map.
In 1983, he emphasized his commitment to the environmental and peace movements with the single "Pace Verde" and its much talked about video. 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 less than three US-charts in the pop, classical and jazz categories. His first US 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, the Greek Theatre and the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
In 1987, AV's 1984 album "Down To The Moon" received a Grammy Award - followed by tours in Canada, the US, thirteen European countries, Japan and Australia.
The dynamic album "Dancing With The Lions" was created in 1988 and 1989. For the first time, Vollenweider opened his project to numerous guests from a wide range of musical genres (Patty Austin, Mark O'Connor). He directed and produced two award-winning videos (New York International Film Festival Award), for which he also created the storyline, the choreography and the set and costume designs.
The double album "Trilogy" was released in 1990 - a selection of the first three albums "Behind The Gardens", "Caverna Magica", "White Winds" and previously unreleased material.
1991 followed with the cinematic album "Book of Roses", on which Vollenweider included symphonic orchestral elements for the first time.
In 1992, he participated in a benefit concert for Chernobyl's children on Moscow's Red Square. He received the World Music Award in Monaco.
1993 -1994, for the first time, Vollenweider produced an album with vocals: "Eolian Minstrels" with contributions from US singers Carly Simon and Eliza Gilkyson. The release was followed by worldwide tours.
In 1994, he performed at the Pavarotti and Friends event in Modena (Italy), where he played duets with Luciano Pavarotti and rock balladeer Bryan Adams, conducted by Michael Kamen.
1995, after doing tours and open air shows in Europe and the US, he played for the first time in Latin America.
Until 1997, besides focusing on the symphonic writing, he played a series of shows in remarkable locations: tours of European castles, shows as special guest of legendary Italian singer/songwriter Zucchero at the 2500 m high location (at -8 Celcius) of Brunico in the Southern Alps. AV's first solo concert inside a giant volcanic cave at Lanzarote's Festival Musica Visual.
In 1998, he started to record "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 initiated a symphonic live project called "Wolkenstein" in 1998. The release of these recordings is currently being prepared.
In 1999, AV 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 word: 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 and the Galician bag-pipe and whistle virtuoso Carlos Nunez, the American songwriter-legend Carly Simon, the American blues-trombone-master Ray Anderson...
2000, travelling with the Cosmopoly project through Europe and the US. With the almost daily changing configuration of musicians, Vollenweider followed the open concept of the album. In New York they played two concerts for the release of Cosmopoly in the US. This time, Andreas' friend Carly Simon joined the group, as well as Mind Jostyn, Carlos Nunez, Djivan Gasparian, XiaoJing Wang and Walter Keiser. Concerts in Brazil with Milton Nascimento and composer/pianist Wagner Tiso.
2000, in the 20-year span of his career, Andreas Vollenweider has sold over ten million albums with his trademark sound that exudes not only tranquility, but also movement. "The Essential Andreas Vollenweider" was compiled from the key songs of his creative development. Vollenweider remixed and remastered the older recordings.
2001, Nomination for the first "Latin Grammy Award" with the song "Cor do amor", lyrics and vocals by Brasilian Milton Nascimento. Concert tour with South African piano legend Abdullah Ibrahim. AV performed in Bali (Indonesia) at the international conference "song of convergence" with Balinese musicians. He started writing the symphonic novel "Tales of Kira Kutan", which premiered at the Warsaw Film Music Festival 2001, with the orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia (Yehudi Menuhin), conducted by Andre Bellmont. September, Athens (Greece), at the old Olympic stadium; theater piece "Socrates - dawn of civilization", with the American actor Rod Steiger as Socrates. Vollenweider's large-scale soundtrack, a dramatic blend of sound design, choirs and percussion. "Carte Blanche" at the AVO Festival in Basel, Switzerland, his guests (besides mini orchestra): Abdullah Ibrahim and David Lindley.
2002, performed at the Budapest Spring Festival, Hungary. Performance of the symphonies "Tales of Kira Kutan" and "Wolkenstein" at the Festival "Live at Sunset" in Zurich with Sinfonia Varsovia European summer tour with newly formed AVAF-mini orchestra, included performance at the "Big Chill Festival" in England, tour continues in the fall 2002. Guest performance at the birthday concert of Jazz composer George Gruntz in Zug, Switzerland. Collaboration with German filmcomposer Hans Zimmer in Los Angeles for the movie "Tears of the Sun", starring Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci.
2003, continued work with Hans Zimmer. Performing with mini orchestra in South Africa's Johannesburg and at the "North Sea Festival" in Capetown, guest performer South African multi-instrumentalist Pops Mohamed. Rest of 2003 for writing and recording the official "new Vollenweider album 2004", to be released in 2004.
2004, release of then new album Vox on Universal Music, followed by touring activities in Europe. Performances in South Africa at the MACUFE Festival; 40,000 people chanting the Vollenweider-music, popular in SA since the early eighties.
2005, toured with the music of Vox. Remastering of the entire catalogue (15 albums), to be released in the US and Canada by the Savoy Label Group, in the rest of the world on Edel Music over the span of a year. Vox release in the USA and Canada on September 2005. Writing music for new album, to be released late fall 2006.