"Enchanting Music, Solace and Disquiet" (Markgräfler Nachrichten, 5.9.16)


Artists: Paolo Pandolfo (viola da gamba), Lee Santana (lute, guitar), Nehad El-Sayed (oud), Omar Ghayatt (performance artist) and voice (Luciana Mancini)

(Excerpts from the review:)

“‘My religion is of love’: these five words are the quintessence of an incredibly complex and yet thrilling concert evening at the St. Cyriak Church in Sulzburg. The Orient meets the Occident; Arabic music meets European music – that is the theme of this unusual concert series of the first Oriental Summer Academy. With the experimental crossover project Los Braços Traygo Cansados – Al Oud meets Laud, Matthias Wagner, the artistic director of the series, has opened a new chapter that is extremely challenging for the listeners. […] Anyone who accepted the adventure experienced an evening filled with vivid images that delved far into the depths of human experience and dug up solace as well as disquiet. And a great deal of beautiful music.”

“The path that this music follows is of an old Spanish romance about a fallen knight. His father is send to the battlefield to look for the body. In the end, a Moor shows him the way. We are on the Iberian Peninsula at the time of the Moors, at the time of recapture by the Christian kings of the West. It is the eve of an era of mutual tolerance and respect, a time where the two cultures of active exchange between the two cultures. The Renaissance composer Enriquez de Valderrábano composed music to several of the strophes. These are the fine sounds that the viola da gamba and lute celebrate together before the oud is included into the story.”

“The vast ornamentation of Arabic music sounds like sparkling jewelry and once again the three instrumentalists go on with what seems to be an improvisatory journey into the present with virtuoso musical effects. […] And even if one is, upon first listening and viewing, unable to comprehend all aspects and technical elements of this complex and cleverly developed performance, the impression that it leaves is lasting. The authenticity of the music and content found its way into the souls of the people.”

CD Review: "A Song of Divine Love" (

"Not only is the title of the newest solo album by the well-known lute player lyrical, but also is his fascinating, multi-movement composition that he recorded along with the Präludium, Fuge und Allegro in E-flat major by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Lute Sonata No. 8 in A major by Silvius Leopold Weiss (1687-1759).  The compositional architecture of both baroque works served as a model for his own spritually inspired work. The individual movements - "Flash", "Pursuance" , "Resolution" and "Psalm" show how Santana regards music as a form of meditiation.  As he writes about his own work: "One can simply hear it as music that lets one to stop thinking, or else as a piece that brings one to a higher sphere of consciousness that is more aware and free of expectations."  An album that takes the listener on a special journey of the senses."

"A Song of Divine Love" - CD Review, RBB Kulturradio (August 31, 2015)


(Click here for the original text in German:

At the heart of Lee Santana's new CD is his own composition: A Song of Divine Love - a worthwhile discovery?

Rating: Successful

The lutenist and composer Lee Santana (born in 1959) is known for its bohemian mix of styles and performances. This is clear from his musical biography, where he mentions that he was first more interested for jazz and rock music in his native Florida and only came to early music and the repertoire for the lute through several detours.  He has lived in Europe since 1984, working as a soloist and as a member of several high-profile ensembles.

Quiet and contemplative

With his latest CD, Lee Santata has succeeded in planning an exceptional program. At the heart of the recording is his own composition A Song of Divine Love for solo lute. Two masterpieces of the baroque repertoire serve as a frame for this piece: Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E flat major by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 998) and a sonata by the Dresden court lute player Silvius Leopold Weiss. Santana wishes for this overall conception to be seen as a kind of meditation (recital as meditation). Accordingly, he interpreted the works of Bach and Weiss quietly and with great contemplation. He chooses rather withdrawn tempos, strives for maximum expression and regularly adds effective rubatos. The movements never sound rushed and a maximum of transparency can always be heard.

Inspired by Coltrane

The highlight of the CD, however, is by all means Lee Santana's composition A Song of Divine Love. The composer was inspired by the 1964 album A Love Supreme by the American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Back then, Coltrane produced a four-movement suite for jazz quartet, which, with its multiform expression, triggered great enthusiasm among his fans. In his lute suite, Santana takes the four-movement structure and even some original titles set by Coltrane. However, this is not a mere transferring of Coltrane's jazz style on the lute; instead, Santana goes on his own way here: In the composition there are tonal and atonal moments, jazz and folk passages, classical contrapuntal sections, and above all numerous moments that are quite meditative. In the booklet, Santana also explains the deliberately designed "architecture" of the individual movements, which is based on certain numerical sequences (which is not possible to recognize while listening without a score). But even without this information about the works' construction, A Song of Divine Love is a very rewarding discovery. A person who confronts it will discover many inspirational details upon listening. And when one listens to the Weiss sonata directly afterwards, one has the impression that even his dance movements groove.

Bernhard Schrammek, kulturradio (translation Erik Dorset)

“How much melancholy fits onto the tip of a finger?”


“How much melancholy fits onto the tip of a finger?” asks Anna Kardos in the opening of her Zürich Tages Anzeiger review of the concert “Fortune, Love, and Time,” performed by the Sirius Viols at the Tonhalle Zurich on June 21st.  

Her conclusion was overwhelmingly positive: “If it is the fingertip of Lee Santana, then that of the whole world, or at last of England. As soon as the lute player plucked the strings of his instrument, the atmosphere of the small concert hall felt as if it had been transfixed- drowned in a heavy beauty that slowed down both the pulse and breathing.  Together with fifty more fingertips (including the star gamaba player Hille Perl and the Sirius Viols) the music of John Dowland (1563-1626) swept through the hall with such an unagitated beauty that one felt as if one had been infected, upon breathing it in, with the melancholy virus.”

A copy of the review in full (in German) can be found here:

Love in Music and Video at the Montforthaus in Feldkirch, Austria

On March 1st 2015, we performed the program “Leibe, sag’, was fängst du an? (“Love, tell me, what moves thee?”) at the recently opened Montforthaus in Feldkirch, Austria.  The concert, which focused on the wondrous beauty of love at first sight, juxtaposed works by Georg Friedrich Händel, Johann Krieger, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, Reinhard Keiser, and Lee Santana against video installations featuring the stories of couples from the Voralberg region. 

 Here are a few photos of the concert (click on the images for the slideshow):

Amarcord DVD

From DVD- "The Book of Madrigals"- Ensemble Amacord


"Go quickly to look for this DVD, because you should not miss it for all of the money in the world.  Watch it in good company, and don't forget to drink a glass of Bruenllo di Montalcino, Cerretalto 2006 - Casanova di Neri or a glass of Poggio all'Oro - Bruenllo di Montalcino - Riserva 2004 with it.  These wines are, of course, incredibly expensive, but they are the same value as this incredible DVD- priceless! The DVD, on the other hand, doesn't cost a fortune.  So try it!"


concert review: opening concert at Schloss Lenzburg, Switzerland

From Zart krachender Zauber zur Lenzburgiade-Eröffnung (Christian Berzins, Oltner Tagblatt, 6.6.14):

Baroque music from Spain and Mexico was the imposing title of the concert.  However, one was not just offered extremely clever insights into the dance music of Spain, the music itself was danced, so much so that the wooden floor of the knight’s hall thundered.

Despite the historical aspect, despite all of the wonderful historical instruments and the deliberate playing, none of the music was presented as a mere intellectual exercise.  The percussionist Michael Metzler added a wonderful pulse to each piece and Steve Player, the baroque guitarist, danced, offering a dionysian character.

The most astonishing aspect of the evening was, despite all of the magical noise and revelry, the delicate sound of Hille Perls gamba always stood front and center."

Read the entire review, in German, here.

Five Stars for "A Song for my Lady"- Fono Forum

The magazine Fono Forum, from Germany, awarded five stars for the recording of A Song for my Lady.  In the review, Matthias Hengelbrock comments:

"The thing that makes [the tenor Julian] Podger's presentation so likeable and so moving is the fact that he doesn't seem to be enamored in his voice, using it instead to use it as a means to the end- he  truly has something to convey.  The same holds true for Lee Santana (lute) and the Sirius Viols under the direction of Hille Perl, who play vivdly with a sublte delicacy, but without the annoying ticks that one tends to find in earlier recordings. Highly recommended!"

You can find a link to the original review, in German, here.