Probably the greatest, most proficient, most creative violinist in the world, Paul Giger's limited number of recordings only hints at his virtuosity, and since so few of his compositions have been recorded, his exposure to the world has been very limited. Born in Herisau in the Outer Rhoden region of Switzerland in 1952, Giger began playing the violin at age eight. At age 18, he left Switzerland to travel through India, Nepal, and other Asian countries, playing on the streets to support himself. Returning to Switzerland in the fall of 1971, he enrolled at the conservatories of Winterthur and Bern, earning his teacher's degree in 1976 and a soloists' degree in 1980. From 1980 to 1983, Giger was first violinist with the St. Gallen Orchestra, and after 1983 has been a freelance musician (though he did continue to teach violin master classes at the Musikakademie of St. Gallen). He works with the Neue Original Appenzeller Streichmusik Projekt, Sur, and frequently collaborates with such artists as Marie-Louise Dähler, Pierre Favre, and Glen Velez.
His first recording, Chartres, was released on ECM Records in 1989 and was recorded on the summer solstice of 1988 while wandering in the crypt and upper church of Chartre Cathedral in France. This was the first exposure the world had to his unique style of playing, utilizing microtones and harmonics, with a virtuosity and command of the instrument unparalleled among performers. His second release, 1992's Alpstein, explored interpretations of the mountain singing of Giger's home country -- with Jan Garbarek on saxophone and Pierre Favre on percussion. Also included on Alpstein is one of Giger's more larger-scale compositions, "Karma Shadub," which in Tibetan means "dancing star." On Schattenwelt (1993), his third release, Giger returned to solo performance for a haunting, nightmarish record largely centered around the Aegean myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, with two pieces, "Bay" and "Bombay," opening and closing the disc respectively. A fourth disc was released in 2000 entitled Ignis, which found Giger working with a small string trio and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.