MARIN MARAIS (1656-1728): Alcione–Suites des Airs à Jouer, 1706 – Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD AVSA 9903, 52:45 (4/8/14) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Jordi Savall’s recording of Marin Marais’ opera, Alcione, one of two he ever wrote, was recorded originally in 1993 at the 11th century Collégiale du Chateau du Cardona in Catalonia. Although it is less sensational than his recent multicultural explorations have been Alcione still offers an expert concert of intimate delight about wood nymphs, shepherds, priestesses, wizards, sailors, the inhabitants of the mythological floating Aeolian island of Homer’s Odyssey, and the followers of Triton.
Shortly after its premiere in Paris in 1706, Marais gathered together the opera’s “most beautiful tunes” into four instrumental suites which the 33 members of Le Concert des Nations play affectionately and with mostly soft muted colors.
For pure fun and audiophile testing, the Airs pour les Matelots et Tritons section is the best, including a wind machine in the Tempest section, an exquisitely cooing Ritournelle for cooing recorders, flute and gamba, and a display of drums in a splendid march.
Originally released on Astrée, Alia Vox has upgraded to deluxe packaging with an illustrated booklet, while Manuel Mohino’s SACD remastering yields substantial rewards: The sound in SACD surround mode is richer, more transparent, and all without sacrificing detail.