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…”
This beautiful recording, once long out-of-print, is now remastered in high definition multi-channel hybrid SACD, and is the first album made by Jordi Savall for the Astrée label, now reissued on Alia Vox. With this rare 1975 disc, Savall confirmed François Couperin as a master composer for viola da gamba with affinities to the previous masters of French music. On the recording Mr. Savall plays an authentic 7-string bass viol, anonymously constructed in 17th century France. He is joined by musicians Ton Koopman playing a Gilbert des Ruisseaux harpsichord built in the late 17th century and Ariane Maurette playing a Barak Norman bass viol constructed in London in 1697. Couperin’s music for these colorful instruments is marvelous, contemplative and beguiling. The highly collectible album, a must-have of the Savall oeuvre, is now available again and features a very informative booklet.
If he were so minded, Jordi Savall might hand copies of this CD out to new acquaintances as the musical equivalent of a calling-card. True, he appears here only in the guise of soloist, whereas a more complete portrait would need to include samples of his work as director and conductor; but as an illustration of the range of the viola da gamba, this generously filled disc is exemplary. And although the calling-card might not be handmade, it is the nearest thing to it, since Alia Vox is Savall’s own, newly established label.
Vigorous and colourful medieval dances revealed by Jordi Savall! The Estampie is a medieval dance consisting of four to seven sections, called puncta, each of which is repeated (in the form aa, bb, cc, etc…).The more widely accepted etymology relates it to stamper, to stamp the feet. Illuminations and paintings from the period seem to indicate that the estampie involves fairly vigorous hopping. The earliest reported example of this musical form is the song "Kalenda Maya" (track 3), supposedly written by the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (1180-1207) to the melody of an estampida played by French jongleurs. In this irresistible album, Jordi Savall explores a Royal manuscript from the French National Library.
Le Concert Spirituel was essentially a Parisian concert series held at the Tuileries Palace, begun in 1725 as an opportunity for musical performances during Lent and other Holy Days when secular musical activities like opera were forbidden. The concerts continued until 1790, just after the beginning of the French Revolution. The music of French composers filled most of the programs, but German and Italian music was occasionally heard, and this CD includes five pieces by Corelli, Telemann, and Rameau that were known to have been played at the concerts. Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations, one of the many stellar ensembles he is responsible for founding, play these works with such surging vibrancy that anyone who thinks of the Baroque as a period of stiff formality would be disabused of that notion on hearing these performances.
The works on this 2-CD set all come from a single source: a document called "Cancionero de Montecassino" which is believed to contain works composed between 1430 and 1480. Somehow the document has survived down through the centuries; it was almost lost when the Abbey where it was stored was bombed in 1944. Luckily the document survived so that this amazing CD set could be recorded by the - also amazing - Le Capella Reial de Catalunya. This CD is the second in a series entitled "Musicas Reales", the first of which being "Carlos V" containing works mainly from the 16th century. If you enjoyed that one, then "Alfons V el Magnanim" will be a welcome addition to your CD spinner.
The 1991 French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) attracted an audience of unexpected size for a story about French Baroque viol music, becoming a runaway hit in France and Germany and even gained wide distribution in the classical-chary U.S. The commercial ramifications grew with the release of the film's soundtrack, featuring early music giant Jordi Savall on viol; the soundtrack achieved platinum sales levels in its initial release. The film's story, built on a very few sketchy facts about the reclusive seventeenth century viol player known only as Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, drew viewers with its modern resonances touching on the conflict between art and popular success, and partly with its dramatic lighting reminiscent of the paintings of Louis le Nain. The soundtrack has a few pieces with vocals or with a small ensemble of other players.
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.