French composer Marin Marais (1656-1728) was remarkably prolific, writing nearly 600 compositions for viola da gamba, as well as many operas. One of his major collections of music for the gamba is Suitte d'un Gôut Etranger, a collection of 33 short works written, according to the composer, "to stretch the skill of those who do not like easy pieces." Jordi Savall, the most acclaimed gamba player of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, who is responsible for bringing many of Marais' works to light, plays with extraordinary virtuosity and expressiveness.
Marin Marais (31 May 1656, Paris – 15 August 1728, Paris) was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for 6 months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles. He did quite well as court musician, and in 1679 was appointed "ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole", a title he kept until 1725.wiki
“The most substantial pieces here are the set of variations of La folia, and the Tombeau pour M-deSte Colombe in memory of Marais's mentor. His idiom embodies a paradox that's peculiarly French, in that it demands a very high technical standard, yet its proper expression requires the utmost restraint. The young Finnish viol-player, Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, is a founder-member of Phantasm. Here he holds his own with elegance and reserve, although in the slower pieces one might have wished for more rhythmic flexibility. The continuo section consists of another viol-player, and a theorbo or harpsichord (though in the variations on La folia, the two are combined). This works well for the most part, though the high partials of the harpsichord tend to drown the viols: the lute is far less obtrusive…”
Between 1975 and 1983, Jordi Savall recorded five albums including the most beautiful pieces from each of the five ‘Books of Pieces for the Viol’ composed by Marin Marais between 1686 and 1725. A silence of nearly 250 years came to an end. A repertoire - and even better, an instrument - returned from oblivion.
It is surprising that so little is known about Marin Marais today, as he could be considered one of the most important French composers of the Baroque period. Born in 1656, the son of a shoemaker, Marais spent his entire life in Paris. His musical career began when he joined the choir of the Sainte‐Chapelle, but when his voice broken he decided to learn the viol, studying with the renowned bass viol player Sainte‐ Colombe, who had a profound influence on the young Marais. Marais went on to enter the royal orchestra and the orchestra of the Académie Royale de musique, where he performed and studied composing under Jean‐Baptiste Lully.