MARIN MARAIS: Pieces de Viole from Five Books, 1686, 1701, 1711, 1717, 1725 – Jordi Savall, basse de viole/ Hopkinson Smith, theorbo and guitar/ Ton Koopman, clavecin/ Christophe Coin, basse de viole (Book 2)/ Anne Gallet, clavecin (Book 2) – Alia Vox Heritage multichannel SACD 9872, 264:50 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Parisian Marais (1656 – 1728) made quite a career for himself after studying with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas and playing in his orchestra as well. Lully thought him quite the star, as did Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe, the leading master of the viola da gamba at the time, and the person most responsible for the ascent of his protégé, Marais. The latter was to become Paris’s most famous gamba player, and easily the instrument’s most skilled composer. Not a lot is known of Marais’s later years, except that he does seem to have cemented a career for himself with no little success, and also found time to sire 19 children under the good graces of his Parisian wife, Catherine d’Amicourt.
These marvelous discs are from 1975, 1977, 1978, 1983, and 1992, but you will be very hard-pressed to find much difference in sound quality, especially in these stunningly gripping SACD remasterings—they are simply beautiful, the surround sound once again proving its worth in small-sized chamber settings, and putting us in the room where all the action is. Savall’s mastery in this music is unquestioned—he has lived with it and studied it his whole life, and I doubt there is a better gamba player alive. The supporting cast is a virtual who’s who of continuo players, and despite the cast changes among discs, all involved are tuned into Marais’s incredible inventive and profound melodic sense. Having all five books, the seminal output of this composer, in one place is a great idea, and though at first glance it might appear that listening to these discs straight through might be somewhat of a chore, you might just find yourself hooked. Enthusiastically recommended!
— Steven Ritter
Chico Hamilton and Little Feat join forces on this impressive 2023 Record Store Day Black Friday release.