Marais “La Gracieuse”

Release date: 2nd August 2019

In February 2019 I recorded 4 suites by Marin Marais. I was joined by the wonderful musicians Israel Golani (Theorbo & Guitar), Joshua Cheatham (viola da gamba) and Olivier Fortin (Harpsichord). The recording was only possible because of a successful crowdfunding campaign, and the result belongs to everybody who contributed musically, financially and otherwise. It will be released on Resonus Classics.

The recording features pieces from the Suite in F-Sharp Minor from Marais’ first book, the A Major Suite from his second book, G minor from the third and E minor from the fourth.

Holding a passion for the music of Marin Marais is one thing, and deciding which handful of his 600 Pièces de viole to record on a CD is quite another. I started by playing twice through all of Marais’ five volumes of music for viol and basso continuo from start to finish. This in itself was quite a marathon but it was also a journey of discovery. It was surprising how clear it was to feel in my own fingers how Marais writing for the viol changed from when he was 30 years old, to when he was 45, 55, 61 and 69 years old. One can feel the vigour and impatience of youth in the earlier books from someone who was not afraid to take a difficult path in order to prove his skill. And how interesting that, in the later books, the increasingly wise composer appears to succeed in creating sublime musical results with much less effort. I got the feeling that somewhere along the line Marais achieved a complete understanding (an enlightenment perhaps?) of how the viol works. 

Through this survey of Marais’ output for solo viol I was able to put together a programme that both reflects his musical development and sheds light on some of his hitherto less well known compositions. There are a number of much-loved pieces by Marais (thanks not in the least to the film Tous les Matins du Monde) and they really do deserve their place in the hearts of viol players. However I think it is important to keep looking for the forgotten gems lurking amongst the pages of Marais’ thick tomes of viol music since there is so much to learn and be enjoyed from all of his music.

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