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COMPOSERS: Marais/Sainte-Colombe
WORKS: Marin Marais & Sainte-Colombe: The Greatest Masterworks
PERFORMER: Spectre de la Rose
The success of the film Tous les matins du monde has sparked a remarkable surge of interest in the bass viol music of Marin Marais and his shadowy teacher, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe. Much of the music in the film was performed by Jordi Savall, whose recordings on Astrée Auvidis remain the definitive versions in this repertoire. But for those wishing to sample the music at a more wallet-friendly price, this new Naxos disc can be commended (as can London Baroque’s disc of Marais’s La gamme on the Musique d’Abord label).


The Greatest Masterworks, however, is a grandiose misnomer for a disc that offers a selection of Marais’s better-known shorter works plus a pair of Sainte-Colombe’s pieces for two bass viols. Of the former, I found Le labyrinthe, with its inventive twists and turns, and the quirky L’arabesque particularly intriguing, while Sainte-Colombe’s lovely Le retour exemplifies his gift for elegiac melodies and lush textures.


Spectre de la Rose, here making their recording debut, are an early music group who came together in the UK in 1991. Despite one or two heavy-handed passages where they overdo the expressive at the expense of the elegant, they have produced a very enjoyable disc. Graham Lock