Marais: Pièces de viole du second livre

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COMPOSERS: Marais
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Pièces de viole du second livre
PERFORMER: Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, Varpu Haavisto (viola da gamba), Eero Palviainen (lute), Elina Mustonen (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-909
The Suitte d’un goût étranger is the second part of the tripartite fourth collection of pieces, called Pièces à une et à trois violes, which Marin Marais published in 1717 at the age of 61. It is deliberately challenging: the 33 pieces are in 13 different keys, some extremely unfamiliar to the gamba players of the day. Forms and moods are extraordinarily varied. One piece, the 13-minute Le labyrinthe, is a striking hybrid that wanders, just as its title suggests, from mood to mood, from key to key. Another, Allemande pour le sujet, et Gigue pour la Basse, daringly superimposes two dance forms. And the Allemande l’asmatique sounds just as breathless as one would expect. It’s a pity that not every piece in the collection could be crammed on to a disc: but the 24 numbers represent a hearty selection. Christophe Coin and Christophe Rousset play everything with wonderful, commanding poise and unfailing elegance.

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Markku Luolajan-Mikkola’s disc of pieces – only marginally less bold – from the second livre of 1701 opens with the variations, Couplets, on the ground bass La folia, and immediately shows the Finn to be an artist of heavier, dare one say more Northern, attitude. The sound is boomy, the rhythms and phrasing markedly less elegant than on Coin’s disc. But the music – which also includes a complete Suite in E, selections of pieces in G and D minor, the deeply moving Tombeau pour monsieur de Sainte Colombe and a final Fantaisie – is still marvellous, testifying to a mind that teemed with originality. Stephen Pettitt