Cited by the Huffington Post for his “inner sense of creative flow, fueled by an abundance of musical imagination and desire,” harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa has an active career as a soloist, ensemble player, recording artist, and teacher. He strives to bring the harpsichord to new audiences by creating a spiritual communion through focused interpretations intensified by memorized repertoire. His first solo recording, Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place (Whaling City Sound), exemplifies his artistic goals as a “transport to the threshold between the ordinary and the spiritual...to the point where the ordinary becomes spiritual and the spiritual becomes ordinary.”
His playing of Francis Poulenc’s Concert champêtre was heralded by the New Bedford Standard-Times as “exquisite—no drama, no posturing—just consummate artistry and a superb performance of a marvelous concerto,” and The Boston Musical Intelligencer called his performance of Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in A Major “a joyous romp.” EDGE Boston found his playing “expert,” while The Listening Room said that his performance was “charming, polished, musically profound, and technically brilliant.”
For his CD of the Bach Viola da Gamba Sonatas with cellist Audrey Sabattier-Cienniwa (Whaling City Sound), KBAQ radio (Phoenix, AZ) called his ability to accompany “spot-on...perfect.” His recording with Grammy Award-winning uilleann piper Jerry O'Sullivan was called “drop-dead gorgeous” and named one of the top ten Irish traditional albums of 2010 by The Irish Echo. An advocate of new music, he is featured on a two-CD set of music by composer Larry Thomas Bell titled In a Garden of Dreamers (Albany Records).
A frequent chamber music collaborator, he has performed the complete Bach Violin Sonatas with renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine on Chicago’s WFMT radio and during the 2013 Boston Early Music Festival. As an orchestral continuo player, he played regularly with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and Rhode Island Philharmonic. In recent years, he has appeared at Emmanuel Music with violinist Nicholas Kitchen, the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, the White Mountain Bach Festival, VentiCordi, and, with uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan, the Catskills Irish Arts Week.
Originally from Niles, Illinois, Paul Cienniwa began his keyboard studies at age six. In his teen years, he played thrash guitar with the Evanston, IL punk band Malicious Intent, followed by seven years as keyboardist with the innovative Chicago-based Irish group Baal Tinne. From 2003–2010, he led Newport Baroque in works from Arne to Zelenka, including performances of Bach cantatas and Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, and in 2009, he was music director for Boston Opera Collaborative’s acclaimed production of Handel’s Alcina.
He been awarded Belgian American Educational Foundation and Fulbright grants, and his musicological articles and reviews have appeared in American and European journals, including Early Music, Ad Parnassum and Early Music America. As an educator, he has taught at the Yale University School of Music, Salve Regina University, Stonehill College, Framingham State University, UMass-Dartmouth, Mount Ida College, and the Music School of the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
In 2020, he was appointed Executive Director of the Binghamton Philharmonic in Binghamton, New York. Most recently, he was Director of Music Ministries at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, Florida. Prior to that, he was music director at First Church in Boston and Chorus Master of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.
Paul Cienniwa started his undergraduate studies as a pianist in the studio of Michael Ruiz at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. After completing his bachelor’s degree at DePaul University with harpsichordist Roger Goodman and organist Jerome Butera, he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in harpsichord from Yale University, where he was a student of Richard Rephann. He has also studied harpsichord with Peter Watchorn, John Whitelaw, and David Schrader.
For more information, visit www.paulcienniwa.com.