Jonathan Dunford, Sylvia Abramowicz and Thomas Dunford play Marais

'A rich mahogany mellowness'

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LABELS: Musica Ficta
WORKS: Suites à deux violes; Les voix humaines; Tombeau de Mr Meliton
PERFORMER: Jonathan Dunford, Sylvia Abramowicz (bass viol), Thomas Dunford (lute)


Jonathan Dunford and Sylvia Abramowicz first met studying in Basel under Jordi Savall. Lacking fluency in a common language, their ‘go-between’ was the suites for two equal viols from Marais’s Premiere livre de pièces à une et à deux violes of 1686. Now 30 years on, recording the G major and D minor Suites, they’re keeping things in the family with theorboist son Thomas playing the continuo Marais belatedly published but had intended all along. Dunford junior also includes his own soulful transcription of Les voix humaines from the sequel volume of 1701.

Featuring a pair of French viols tuned to the low French Baroque pitch, using – following Marais’s own preference – specially-made brass-wound bass strings, there’s a rich mahogany mellowness to the timbre, ideally complemented by the theorbo’s burnished fleshing out of the D minor Prelude, and the added rhythmic kick it imparts to the G major’s sprightly Gigue. Perhaps the same Suite’s Courante is a touch sedate, and its concluding Chaconne could take a little more characterisation; but there’s no mistaking the feeling as Marais’s Tombeau de Mr Meliton unfolds its plangent arc of melancholy.


Paul Riley