The German viola da gamba and lirone player, Hille [Hildegard] Perl, is the daughter of Helmuth Perl, a harpsichordist, organist, and musicologist who specialized in Mozart. She decided to play the viola da gamba after attending a Wieland Kuijken concert when she was 5 years old. She studied with Niklas Trüstedt (Berlin) and with Pere Ros and Ingrid Stampa (Hamburg). Perl earned a degree in 1990 at Bremen's Academy for Early Music, where she studied with Sarah Cunningham and Jaap ter Linden.
Hille Perl is widely regarded as one of the leading viola da gambists in the world. Because of the prominence of her instrument in the Baroque era, her repertoire is rich in works from that period, with the names, J.S. Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Marin Marais, Sainte-Colombe, and other 17th and 18th century composers headlining her concert programs and recordings. She has a particular interest in French Baroque repertoire for seven-string bass viola da gamba, which she plays with an almost vocal, yet refined tone. She also performs Spanish, Italian and German repertoire for the instrument. She also plays the treble viol, Baroque guitar, Lirone, and Xarana. She often performs with her husband, Lee Santana (who plays the lute, theorbo, chitarrone, and Baroque guitar), in duo repertoire, and together the pair have formed two other ensembles: Los Otros, with guitarist Steve Player, and the Age of Passions, with violinist/conductor Petra Müllejans and flutist Karl Kaiser. Perl has also appeared with some of the leading Baroque ensembles in Europe, like the Freiburger Barockorchester and the Harp Consort.
Hille Perl's busy concert schedule includes appearances at many of the major Baroque festivals, including the Bachwoche Ansbach (2009), Bachfest Leipzig (2010), Bach Festival Arnstadt (2011), and Festival Bach-en-Combrailles (2012). She performed with Santana and harpsichordist Patrick Ayrton to great acclaim at the May 2011 Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, held at St. John's Smith Square in London. Their performances in an all-J.S. Bach program were later broadcast over BBC Radio 3.
Hille Perl steadily built her career, and soon began appearing on recordings. She has made numerous recordings, many of them available from Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (DHM). Among the earliest was a 1997 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CD, “Spanish Gypsies”, with Santana, Player, Andrew Lawrence-King, and other notables. Perl and Santana formed Los Otros (The Others) in 2001 and their first recording, “Tinto”, a collection of works by Kapsberger, Corbetta, and others, appeared on RCA Special Imports in 2003. In 2004 Perl appeared on one of her most acclaimed recordings, “Marais' Pour La Violle”, with Santana, on DHM. Hille Perl, Lee Santata and their daughter Marta Perl play together on a highly praised 2010 DHM CD entitled “Loves Alchymie”.
Since 2002, Hille Perl has taught viola da gamba at the Hochschule der Künste in Bremen, while remaining busy both in the concert hall and recording studio.
Hille Perl plays a seven-string Tielke replica made by Ingo Muthesius and a six-string Italian gamba made by Claus Derenbach. When she is not travelling she lives in a farmhouse in northern Germany with her family and a few chickens, horses, cats and rabbits. Perl and Santana's daughter, Marthe Perl, is also an acclaimed viola da gambist.