All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Marais: Pièces de viole, Books II-V etc

Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Alexandre Tharaud (piano) (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Pièces de viole, Books II-V – selection, including Folies d’Espagne, La Rêveuse etc
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM902315   62:12 mins 


In this somewhat experimental recording we have a selection of pieces for bass viol and harpsichord by Marin Marais translated and, in two instances, transcribed to the medium of cello and piano. This may appear forward-looking to ears and sensibilities more youthful than mine, but the approach reminds me of how related repertoire used to be performed three quarters of a century ago. There is, though, one big difference, and it is in the immensely advanced knowledge of Baroque performance practice which exists today.

I confess to having struggled here, not for reasons either of prejudice or unfamiliarity – after all, I grew up listening to my mother playing arrangements for cello and piano of bass viol music by Caix d’Hervelois and others – but because it seldom reveals the subtle, often melancholy nuances of Marais’s delicately expressed dialogue. The chosen pieces come from the second, third, fourth and fifth collections of the composer’s bass viol music, printed between 1701-25. Reflective pieces such as the beguiling La Rêveuse leave a more favourable impression than the extrovert ones, while the omission of the beautiful but neglected Sujet Diversitez with its 20 variations perhaps was a missed opportunity.

Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud are on their customary virtuosic form, and their take on this music is full of vitality but, as Dr Charles Burney once remarked upon the music of CPE Bach, a little habit is required for the enjoyment of it.


Nicholas Anderson