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. ~ Linda Kohanov